Intensive care unit length of stay is reduced by protocolized family support intervention: a systematic review and meta-analysis



This study aimed to elucidate the impact of protocolized family support intervention on length of stay (LOS) in the intensive care unit (ICU) through a systematic review and meta-analysis.


Medline, EMBASE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and other web-based databases were referenced since inception until November 26, 2018. We included randomized-controlled trials wherein protocolized family support interventions were conducted for enhanced communication and shared medical decision-making. LOS (in days) and mortality were evaluated using a random-effects model, and adjusted LOS was estimated using a mixed-effects model.


We included seven randomized-controlled trials with 3477 patients. Protocolized family support interventions were found to significantly reduce the ICU LOS {mean difference = − 0.89 [95% confidence interval (CI) = − 1.50 to − 0.27]} and hospital LOS [mean difference = − 3.78 (95% CI = − 5.26 to − 2.29)]; the results of the mixed-effect model showed that they significantly reduced ICU LOS after adjusting for the therapeutic goal [mean difference = − 1.30 (95% CI = − 2.35 to − 0.26)], methods of measurement [mean difference = − 0.89 (95% CI = − 1.55 to − 0.22)], and timing of intervention [mean difference = − 1.05 (95% CI = − 2.05 to − 0.05)]. Similar results were found after adjusting for patients’ disease severity [mean difference = − 1.21 (95% CI = − 2.03 to − 0.39)] and the trim-and-fill method [mean difference = − 0.86 (95% CI = − 1.44 to − 0.28)]. There was no difference in mortality rate in ICU and hospital between the protocolized intervention and control groups.


Protocolized family support intervention for enhanced communication and shared decision-making with the family reduced ICU LOS in critically ill patients without impacting mortality.

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Availability of data and material

The data sets used and/or analyzed can be obtained from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Change history

  • 08 October 2019

    The original version of this article unfortunately contained a mistake. One of the affiliations was incorrect: Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Veterans Health Service Medical Center, Portland, USA.

  • 08 October 2019

    The original version of this article unfortunately contained a mistake. One of the affiliations was incorrect: Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Veterans Health Service Medical Center, Portland, USA.


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This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


The authors declare that they have taken no support from any organization for the submitted work. The authors also have no conflicts of interest to declare.

Author information




Study concept and design: HWL and YJL. Data acquisition: HWL and YKP. Data analysis and interpretation: HWL and EJJ. Drafting of the manuscript: HWL. Critical revision of the manuscript and important intellectual content: HWL and YJL. Study supervision: YJL.

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Correspondence to Yeon Joo Lee.

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Lee, H.W., Park, Y., Jang, E.J. et al. Intensive care unit length of stay is reduced by protocolized family support intervention: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Intensive Care Med 45, 1072–1081 (2019).

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  • Intensive care units
  • Critical care
  • Professional-family relations
  • Decision-making
  • Decision support techniques