Decision-making in intensive care medicine - a review

James, Fiona R. and Power, Nicola and Laha, Shondipon (2018) Decision-making in intensive care medicine - a review. Journal of the Intensive Care Society, 19 (3). pp. 247-258. ISSN 1751-1437

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Decision-making by intensivists around accepting patients to intensive care units is a complex area, with often high-stakes, difficult, emotive decisions being made with limited patient information, high uncertainty about outcomes and extreme pressure to make these decisions quickly. This is exacerbated by a lack of clear guidelines to help guide this difficult decision-making process, with the onus largely relying on clinical experience and judgement. In addition to uncertainty compounding decision-making at the individual clinical level, it is further complicated at the multi-speciality level for the senior doctors and surgeons referring to intensive care units. This is a systematic review of the existing literature about this decision-making process and the factors that help guide these decisions on both sides of the intensive care unit admission dilemma. We found many studies exist assessing the patient factors correlated with intensive care unit admission decisions. Analysing these together suggests that factors consistently found to be correlated with a decision to admit or refuse a patient from intensive care unit are bed availability, severity of illness, initial ward or team referred from, patient choice, do not resuscitate status, age and functional baseline. Less research has been done on the decision-making process itself and the factors that are important to the accepting intensivists; however, similar themes are seen. Even less research exists on referral decision and demonstrates that in addition to the factors correlated with intensive care unit admission decisions, other wider variables are considered by the referring non-intensivists. No studies are available that investigate the decision-making process in referring non-intensivists or the mismatch of processes and pressure between the two sides of the intensive care unit referral dilemma.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of the Intensive Care Society
Additional Information:
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Journal of the Intensive Care Society, 19 (3), 2018, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2018 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Journal of the Intensive Care Society page: on SAGE Journals Online:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? decision-makingintensive care unitsadmissionreferralcritical care and intensive care medicinecritical care ??
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Deposited On:
02 Jan 2018 11:30
Last Modified:
15 Jan 2024 00:14