Intensive Care Unit Capacity Strain and Outcomes of Critical Illness in a Resource-Limited Setting: A 2-Hospital Study in South Africa

Abstract [from journal]

Objective: To measure the association of intensive care unit (ICU) capacity strain with processes of care and outcomes of critical illness in a resource-limited setting.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of 5332 patients referred to the ICUs at 2 public hospitals in South Africa using the country’s first published multicenter electronic critical care database. We assessed the association between multiple ICU capacity strain metrics (ICU occupancy, turnover, census acuity, and referral burden) at different exposure time points (ICU referral, admission, and/or discharge) with clinical and process of care outcomes. The association of ICU capacity strain at the time of ICU admission with ICU length of stay (LOS), the primary outcome, was analyzed with a multivariable Cox proportional hazard model. Secondary outcomes of ICU triage decision (with strain at ICU referral), ICU mortality (with strain at ICU admission), and ICU LOS (with strain at ICU discharge), were analyzed with linear and logistic multivariable regression.
 
Results: No measure of ICU capacity strain at the time of ICU admission was associated with ICU LOS, the primary outcome. The ICU occupancy at the time of ICU admission was associated with increased odds of ICU mortality (odds ratio = 1.07, 95% confidence interval: 1.02-1.11; P = .004), a secondary outcome, such that a 10% increase in ICU occupancy would be associated with a 7% increase in the odds of ICU mortality.
 
Conclusions: In a resource-limited setting in South Africa, ICU capacity strain at the time of ICU admission was not associated with ICU LOS. In secondary analyses, higher ICU occupancy at the time of ICU admission, but not other measures of capacity strain, was associated with increased odds of ICU mortality.