Handling critically ill patients is a complex task for Emergency Department (ED) personnel. Initial treatment is of major importance and requires adequately experienced ED doctors to initiate and decide for the right medical or surgical treatment. Our aim was, with regard to clinical presentation, management and mortality to describe adult non-trauma patients that upon ED arrival elicited emergency team calls.
An observational study of adult patients (= 18 years) admitted to a regional ED with conditions that elicited acute team activation and additional emergency team consultation calls for non-ED specialist physicians. Emergency team calls were two-tiered with 'orange' and 'red' calls. Additionally, intensive care unit (ICU) admission charts were reviewed to identify the total number of adult non-trauma and non-cardiac arrest patients admitted to the ICU from the ED during the study period.
A total of 109 emergency team calls were triggered (79 orange and 30 red), comprising 66 (60.6 %) men and 43 women, with a median age of 64 years. Patients presented with: 4 Airway, 27 Breathing, 41 Circulation, 31 Disability, 2 Exposure and 4 Other problems. Overall, 58/109 (53.2 %) patients were admitted to the ICU, while 20/109 (18.3 %) patients were deemed ineligible for ICU admission. 30-day mortality was 34/109 (31.2 %), and circulatory problems were the most frequent cause of death (61.8 %, p = 0.02). Patients who died were significantly older than those who survived (p = 0.004). Additionally, 115 adult patients were admitted to the ICU directly from the ED without eliciting an emergency team call during the study period. These patients mainly comprised patients who were intoxicated, were unconscious or had respiratory failure.
The majority of emergency team call patients presented with circulatory, disability and breathing problems. Half of the patients were admitted to the ICU, although a high rate of patients was deemed ineligible for ICU admission. 30-day mortality was considerable and circulatory related illnesses were associated with increased short-term mortality.
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