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ICU Appears Overused for Some Patients With Heart, Lung Disease

Researchers find no difference in mortality rates, but higher costs for intensive care for some patients

patient on oxygen

MONDAY, Feb. 20, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Admission to the intensive care unit (ICU) is not associated with a survival benefit for patients with uncertain ICU needs hospitalized with exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), exacerbation of heart failure, or acute myocardial infarction (AMI), according to a study published online Feb. 17 in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

Thomas Valley, M.D., of the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, and colleagues examined 1.5 million Medicare records to determine outcomes for patients with COPD, AMI, and worsening heart failure.

The researchers observed no difference in 30-day mortality rates between patients in the ICU and those who received regular inpatient care in another type of hospital unit. However, ICU care was almost $5,000 more for patients with worsening heart failure and $2,600 more for AMI patients, compared to those in regular care. There was no difference in cost for COPD patients in the ICU or regular care. The investigators also found that ICU patients were more likely to undergo invasive procedures and be exposed to infections.

"These findings suggest that the ICU may be overused for some patients with these conditions," the authors write. "Identifying patients most likely to benefit from ICU admission may improve health care efficiency while reducing costs."

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