The intensive care unit (ICU) may not improve the chances of survival for all patients with serious heart problems, a new study suggests.
“We found that the ICU may not always be the answer. Now, we need to help doctors decide who needs the ICU and who doesn’t,” study lead author Dr. Thomas Valley said.
He’s a pulmonary and critical care researcher at the University of Michigan Medical School.
Researchers examined 1.5 million Medicare records to determine outcomes for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart attack and worsening heart failure. Many patients with these conditions are admitted to an ICU.
There was no difference in 30-day death rates between patients in the ICU and those who received regular inpatient care in another type of hospital unit, the study authors said.
However, ICU care was almost $5,000 more for patients with worsening heart failure and $2,600 more for heart attack patients, compared to those in regular care.
There was no difference in cost for COPD patients in the ICU or regular care, the study found.
The researchers also found that ICU patients were more likely to undergo invasive procedures and be exposed to dangerous infections.
“Our results highlight that there is a large group of patients who doctors have trouble figuring out whether or not the ICU will help them or not,” Valley said in a news release from the journal.
Valley emphasized that the findings don’t apply to patients who clearly need to be in intensive care, such as those who cannot breathe on their own.
The study was published Feb. 17 in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.
The Society of Critical Care Medicine has more on critical care.