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Characterizing equity of intensive care unit admissions for sepsis and acute respiratory failure

Annals of the American Thoracic Society December 1, 2022

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Research Areas


RATIONALE: Patients who identify as from racial or ethnic minority groups who have sepsis or acute respiratory failure (ARF) experience worse outcomes relative to nonminority patients, but processes of care accounting for disparities are not well-characterized. 

OBJECTIVES: Determine whether reductions in intensive care unit (ICU) admission during hospital-wide capacity strain occur preferentially among patients who identify with racial or ethnic minority groups. 

METHODS: This retrospective cohort among 27 hospitals across the Philadelphia metropolitan area and Northern California between 2013 and 2018 included adult patients with sepsis and/or ARF who did not require life support at the time of hospital admission. An updated model of hospital-wide capacity strain was developed that permitted determination of relationships between patient race, ethnicity, ICU admission, and strain. 

RESULTS: After adjustment for demographics, disease severity, and study hospital, patients who identified as Asian or Pacific Islander had the highest adjusted ICU admission odds relative to patients who identified as White in both the sepsis and ARF populations (odds ratio, 1.09; P = 0.006 and 1.26; P < 0.001). ICU admission was also elevated for patients with ARF who identified as Hispanic (odds ratio, 1.11; P = 0.020). Capacity strain did not modify differences in ICU admission for patients who identified with a minority group in either disease population (all interactions, P > 0.05). 

CONCLUSIONS: Systematic differences in ICU admission patterns were observed for patients that identified as Asian, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic. However, ICU admission was not restricted from these groups, and capacity strain did not preferentially reduce ICU admission from patients identifying with minority groups. Further characterization of provider decision-making can help contextualize these findings as the result of disparate decision-making or a mechanism of equitable care.


National Heart,Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)