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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Interhospital transport of the extremely ill patient: the mobile intensive care unit

M Gebremichael, U Borg, N M Habashi, C Cottingham, L Cunsolo, M McCunn, H N Reynolds
Critical Care Medicine 2000, 28 (1): 79-85
10667503

BACKGROUND: Critically ill patients may require specialized care that is offered only at tertiary referral centers. As regionalization and specialization of critical care become more common, transportation of critically ill patients must be refined. Transportation of critically ill patients within a hospital, much less outside the hospital, is often deemed unsafe because of medical instability. We report, here, our results from 2 yrs' experience of transporting extremely ill patients with respiratory failure via a ground critical care transport service.

METHODS: A mobile intensive care unit was equipped and staffed to nearly recreate the intensive care environment. Staffing included a physician, nurse, respiratory therapist, and driver--all with extensive critical care experience. The mobile intensive care unit was equipped with a full pharmacy, advanced ventilatory equipment, and capability for full invasive hemodynamic monitoring. Data were analyzed by retrospective review. The predicted mortality rate, based on Pao2/Fio2 ratios, was compared with the actual mortality rate.

RESULTS: During a 2-yr period, 39 critically ill patients were transported. Thirty-six of the 39 were candidates for extracorporeal lung assist, with a mean positive end-expiratory pressure requirement of 15.9, a mean Fio2 requirement of .93, and a mean Pao2/Fio2 ratio of 59.8. Pulmonary arterial catheters and peripheral arterial catheters were in place in 66.6% and 72% of patients, respectively. Vasoactive medications were being infused in 56%, and 74% were receiving medical paralytics. One patient died during movement from the bed to the transport gurney. Other than one episode of transient hypotension, there were no complications or untoward outcomes related to transport. Unique therapeutic interventions were performed at the receiving facility on 34 of 39 patients. The predicted mortality rate, based on indicators of lung dysfunction, was 68% to 100%; the actual subsequent hospital mortality rate was 43%.

CONCLUSIONS: When a mobile intensive care unit is properly staffed and equipped and patient stabilization is performed before transfer, severely ill patients with respiratory failure can be transferred safely. For patients with respiratory failure, there may be a survival advantage in transfer to regional centers of expertise.

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