How to optimize critical care resources in surgical patients: intensive care without physical borders

The article by Pelosi, Ball and Schultz was published in the October 2018 issue of Current Opinion in Critical Care.
Purpose of Review:  Timely identification of surgery patients at risk of postoperative complications is important to improve the care process, including critical care. This review discusses epidemiology and impact of postoperative complications; prediction scores used to identify surgical patients at risk of complications, and the role of critical care in the postoperative management. It also discusses how critical care may change, with respect to admission to the ICU.
Recent Finding:  Optimization of postoperative outcome, next to preoperative and intraoperative optimization, consists of using risk scores to early identify patients at risk of developing complications. Critical care consultancy should be performed in the ward after surgery, if necessary. ICUs could work at different levels of intensity, but remain preferably multidisciplinary, combining care for surgical and medical patients. ICU admission should still be considered for those patients at very high risk of postoperative complications, and for those receiving complex or emergency interventions.
Summary:  To optimize critical care resources for surgery patients at high risk of postoperative complications, the care process should not only include critical care and monitoring in ICUs, but also strict monitoring in the ward. Prediction scores could help to timely identify patients at risk. More intense care (monitoring) outside the ICU could improve outcome. This concept of critical care without borders could be implemented in the near future to optimize the local resources and improve patient safety. Predict more, do less in ICUs, and more in the ward.
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Regional anesthesia and analgesia after surgery in ICU

The aim is to demonstrate that ICU physicians should play a pivotal role in developing regional anesthesia techniques that are underused in critically ill patients despite the proven facts in perioperative and long-term pain, organ dysfunction, and postsurgery patient health-related quality of life improvement | Current Opinion in Critical Care

Regional anesthesia and/or analgesia strategies in ICU reduce the surgical and trauma–stress response in surgical patients as well as complications incidence. Recent studies suggested that surgical/trauma ICU patients receive opioid–hypnotics continuous infusions to prevent pain and agitation that could increase the risk of posttraumatic stress disorder and chronic neuropathic pain symptoms, and chronic opioid use. Regional anesthesia use decrease the use of intravenous opioids and the ectopic activity of injured small fibers limiting those phenomena. In Cochrane reviews and prospective randomized trials in major surgery patients, regional anesthesia accelerates the return of the gastrointestinal transit and rehabilitation, decreases postoperative pain and opioids use, reduces ICU/hospital stay, improves pulmonary outcomes, including long period of mechanical ventilation and early extubation, reduces overall adverse cardiac events, and reduces ICU admissions when compared with general anesthesia and intravenous opiates alone. The reduction of long-term mortality has been reported in major vascular or orthopedic surgeries.

Promoting regional anesthesia/analgesia in ICU surgical/trauma patients could undoubtedly limit the risk of complications, ICU/hospital stay, and improve patient’s outcome. The use of regional anesthesia permits a high doses opioid use limitation which is mandatory and should be considered as feasible and well tolerated in ICU.

Full reference: Capdevila, M. et al. (2017) Regional anesthesia and analgesia after surgery in ICU. Current Opinion in Critical Care. Vol. 23 (Issue 5) pp. 430–439

How to better identify patients at high risk of postoperative complications?

This review summarizes historical and more recent scoring systems for predicting patients with increased morbidity and mortality in the postoperative period | Current Opinion in Critical Care


Purpose of review: Preoperative risk assessment and perioperative factors may help identify patients at increased risk of postoperative complications and allow postoperative management strategies that improve patient outcomes.

Recent findings: Most prediction scores predict postoperative mortality with, at best, moderate accuracy. Scores that incorporate surgery-specific and intraoperative covariates may improve the accuracy of traditional scores. Traditional risk factors including increased ASA physical status score, emergent surgery, intraoperative blood loss and hemodynamic instability are consistently associated with increased mortality using most scoring systems.

Summary: Preoperative clinical risk indices and risk calculators estimate surgical risk with moderate accuracy. Surgery-specific risk calculators are helpful in identifying patients at increased risk of 30-day mortality. Particular attention should be paid to intraoperative hemodynamic instability, blood loss, extent of surgical excision and volume of resection.

Full reference: . & Kelly, B. (2017) How to better identify patients at high risk of postoperative complications? Current Opinion in Critical Care: Published online: 17 August 2017

Interventions affecting mortality in critically ill and perioperative patients

Martina, B.R. et al. Journal of Critical Care | Published online: 4 May 2017


  • No systematic exploration of confounders in randomized controlled trials reporting a significant effect on mortality in critically ill patients has been performed.
  • Almost half of these trials were single centre and one third were not analysed according to the intention to treat principle, inflating effect size.
  • Blinded and/or multicentre design was associated with an increased number needed to treat/harm.
  • Major systematic biases exist and affect trial findings irrespective of the intervention being studied.

Read the full abstract here

Preoperative risk stratification of critically ill patients

Copeland, C.C. et al. (2017) The Journal of Clinical Anesthesia. 39 (June) pp. 122–127



  • Preoperative assessment of critically ill patients is challenging and understudied.
  • ASA class, RCRI, and SOFA score were studied to predict survival to discharge.
  • One in four ICU patients did not survive to discharge after an intervention.
  • Available scores inadequately discriminated between survivors and non-survivors.
  • SOFA score (AUC = 0.68) outperformed ASA class (AUC = 0.59).

Read the full abstract here

Care of the eye during anaesthesia and intensive care

 O’Driscoll, A. & White, E. Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine. Published online: November 26 2016

B0004383 Distorted reflection of an eye
Image source: Dianne Harris – Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Perioperative eye injuries and blindness are rare but important complications of anaesthesia. The three causes of postoperative blindness are ischaemic optic neuropathy, central retinal artery thrombosis (these can exist in tandem and have been described as ischaemic oculopathies) and cortical blindness.

This review aims to improve anaesthetists’ knowledge of orbital anatomy, ocular physiology and the mechanisms of perioperative eye injuries to help reduce their occurrence.

Read the abstract here

Effect of Chlorhexidine Bathing Every Other Day on Prevention of Hospital-Acquired Infections in the Surgical ICU

Swan, J.T. et al. (2016) Critical Care Medicine. 44(10) pp. 1822–1832

rubber-duck-1390639_960_720Objective: To test the hypothesis that compared with daily soap and water bathing, 2% chlorhexidine gluconate bathing every other day for up to 28 days decreases the risk of hospital-acquired catheter-associated urinary tract infection, ventilator-associated pneumonia, incisional surgical site infection, and primary bloodstream infection in surgical ICU patients.

Design: This was a single-center, pragmatic, randomized trial. Patients and clinicians were aware of treatment-group assignment; investigators who determined outcomes were blinded.

Setting: Twenty-four–bed surgical ICU at a quaternary academic medical center.

Patients: Adults admitted to the surgical ICU from July 2012 to May 2013 with an anticipated surgical ICU stay for 48 hours or more were included.

Interventions: Patients were randomized to bathing with 2% chlorhexidine every other day alternating with soap and water every other day (treatment arm) or to bathing with soap and water daily (control arm).

Measurements and Main Results: The primary endpoint was a composite outcome of catheter-associated urinary tract infection, ventilator-associated pneumonia, incisional surgical site infection, and primary bloodstream infection. Of 350 patients randomized, 24 were excluded due to prior enrollment in this trial and one withdrew consent. Therefore, 325 were analyzed (164 soap and water versus 161 chlorhexidine). Patients acquired 53 infections. Compared with soap and water bathing, chlorhexidine bathing every other day decreased the risk of acquiring infections (hazard ratio = 0.555; 95% CI, 0.309–0.997; p = 0.049). For patients bathed with soap and water versus chlorhexidine, counts of incident hospital-acquired infections were 14 versus 7 for catheter-associated urinary tract infection, 13 versus 8 for ventilator-associated pneumonia, 6 versus 3 for incisional surgical site infections, and 2 versus 0 for primary bloodstream infection; the effect was consistent across all infections. The absolute risk reduction for acquiring a hospital-acquired infection was 9.0% (95% CI, 1.5–16.4%; p = 0.019). Incidences of adverse skin occurrences were similar (18.9% soap and water vs 18.6% chlorhexidine; p = 0.95).

Conclusions: Compared with soap and water, chlorhexidine bathing every other day decreased the risk of acquiring infections by 44.5% in surgical ICU patients.

Acute kidney injury following cardiac surgery: current understanding and future directions

O’Neal, J.B. et al. Critical Care. Published online: 4 July 2016
Image source: Pfree2014 – Wikimedia // CC BY-SA 4.0

Acute kidney injury (AKI) complicates recovery from cardiac surgery in up to 30 % of patients, injures and impairs the function of the brain, lungs, and gut, and places patients at a 5-fold increased risk of death during hospitalization. Renal ischemia, reperfusion, inflammation, hemolysis, oxidative stress, cholesterol emboli, and toxins contribute to the development and progression of AKI.

Preventive strategies are limited, but current evidence supports maintenance of renal perfusion and intravascular volume while avoiding venous congestion, administration of balanced salt as opposed to high-chloride intravenous fluids, and the avoidance or limitation of cardiopulmonary bypass exposure. AKI that requires renal replacement therapy occurs in 2–5 % of patients following cardiac surgery and is associated with 50 % mortality. For those who recover from renal replacement therapy or even mild AKI, progression to chronic kidney disease in the ensuing months and years is more likely than for those who do not develop AKI.

Cardiac surgery continues to be a popular clinical model to evaluate novel therapeutics, off-label use of existing medications, and nonpharmacologic treatments for AKI, since cardiac surgery is fairly common, typically elective, provides a relatively standardized insult, and patients remain hospitalized and monitored following surgery. More efficient and time-sensitive methods to diagnose AKI are imperative to reduce this negative outcome. The discovery and validation of renal damage biomarkers should in time supplant creatinine-based criteria for the clinical diagnosis of AKI.

Read the full article here

Perioperative complications of obese patients

Kiss, T. et al. Current Opinion in Critical Care. August 2016 22(4). pp. 401–405

Purpose of review: The perioperative care of obese patients can often be challenging, as the presence of comorbidities is common in this patient population. In this article, we present recent data on perioperative complications of obese patients and discuss relevant details for daily practice, including drug dosing, airway management, and mechanical ventilation.

Recent findings: The volatile agent desflurane reduces extubation time, without major effects on postoperative anesthesia care unit discharge time, incidence of postoperative nausea and vomiting, or postoperative pain scores compared with other volatile anesthetics. Lean body weight is the most appropriate dosing scalar for most drugs used in anesthesia, including opioids and anesthetic induction agents. Compared with the operational theatre, airway complications occur 20-fold more often in the ICU, with poor outcome. Individual titration of positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) after lung recruitment improves gas exchange and lung mechanics intraoperatively, but data on patient outcome are lacking.

Summary: Intensive care physicians who treat obese patients need to be trained in the management of the difficult airway. The application of PEEP and the use of recruitment maneuvers may lead to improved intraoperative oxygenation, but current data do not allow recommending the use of high PEEP combined with lung recruitment maneuvers in this population.

Read the abstract here

Risk factors for delirium after on-pump cardiac surgery: a systematic review

Critical Care 2015, 19:346

As evidence-based effective treatment protocols for delirium after cardiac surgery are lacking, efforts should be made to identify risk factors for preventive interventions. Moreover, knowledge of these risk factors could increase validity of etiological studies in which adjustments need to be made for confounding variables. This review aims to systematically identify risk factors for delirium after cardiac surgery and to grade the evidence supporting these associations.

A prior registered systematic review was performed using EMBASE, CINAHL, MEDLINE and Cochrane from 1990 till January 2015 ( All studies evaluating patients for delirium after cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) using either randomization or multivariable data analyses were included. Data was extracted and quality was scored in duplicate. Heterogeneity impaired pooling of the data; instead a semi-quantitative approach was used in which the strength of the evidence was graded based on the number of investigations, the quality of studies, and the consistency of the association reported across studies.

In total 1462 unique references were screened and 34 were included in this review, of which 16 (47 %) were graded as high quality. A strong level of evidence for an association with the occurrence of postoperative delirium was found for age, previous psychiatric conditions, cerebrovascular disease, pre-existent cognitive impairment, type of surgery, peri-operative blood product transfusion, administration of risperidone, postoperative atrial fibrillation and mechanical ventilation time. Postoperative oxygen saturation and renal insufficiency were supported by a moderate level of evidence, and there is no evidence that gender, education, CPB duration, pre-existent cardiac disease or heart failure are risk factors.

Of many potential risk factors for delirium after cardiac surgery, for only 11 there is a strong or moderate level of evidence. These risk factors should be taken in consideration when designing future delirium prevention strategies trials or when controlling for confounding in future etiological studies.

via Critical Care | Full text | Risk factors for delirium after on-pump cardiac surgery: a systematic review.