-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
FRIDAY, May 24 (HealthDay News) -- The number of U.S. patients
admitted to hospitals' intensive care units after spending time in
an emergency room has increased by nearly 50 percent, according to
The study, conducted by researchers at the George Washington
University School of Public Health and Health Services in
Washington, D.C., found that patients wait five hours in the
emergency room on average before being admitted to the ICU. The
researchers said improved coordination between ER and ICU staff
could prevent complications and help critically ill patients more
quickly receive the care they need.
"These findings suggest that emergency physicians are sending more patients on to the ICU," lead author Peter Mullins said in a university news release. "The increase might be the result of an older, sicker population that needs more care."
After analyzing data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Care
Survey, a survey of U.S. hospital-based emergency departments
during a seven-year span, the researchers found that ICU admissions
increased nearly 50 percent, from 2.79 million in 2002 to 4.14
million in 2008. Meanwhile, emergency room admissions increased by
just 5.8 percent.
The study also showed that ICU admissions involving patients
aged 85 and older grew the most, increasing 25 percent every two
years during the study period. Tests and services provided to ER
patients heading to the ICU also increased: CT and MRI scans jumped
from 16.8 percent in 2002 to 37.4 percent in 2008.
Chest pain and shortness of breath were most often the reason
people were admitted to the ICU. The researchers said these
symptoms often are a red flag for life-threatening conditions such
as heart attacks.
Dr. Jesse Pines, an emergency physician and associate professor
of emergency medicine and health policy at the university, said
more research is needed to figure out how to reduce the amount of
time critically ill patients spend waiting in the emergency room
before being admitted to the ICU.
"Studies have shown that the longer ICU patients stay in the emergency department, the more likely they are to die in the hospital," Pines said in the news release. "Better coordination between the emergency department and ICU staff might help speed transfers and prevent complications caused by long emergency department waits."
The study was published in the May issue of the journal
Academic Emergency Medicine.
The Society of Critical Care Medicine provides more statistics
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