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01.12.2018 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Critical Care 1/2018

Association between afterhours admission to the intensive care unit, strained capacity, and mortality: a retrospective cohort study

Critical Care > Ausgabe 1/2018
Adam M. Hall, Henry T. Stelfox, Xioaming Wang, Guanmin Chen, Danny J. Zuege, Peter Dodek, Allan Garland, Damon C. Scales, Luc Berthiaume, David A. Zygun, Sean M. Bagshaw
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The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1186/​s13054-018-2027-8) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Admission to the intensive care unit (ICU) outside daytime hours has been shown to be variably associated with increased morbidity and mortality. We aimed to describe the characteristics and outcomes of patients admitted to the ICU afterhours (22:00–06:59 h) in a large Canadian health region. We further hypothesized that the association between afterhours admission and mortality would be modified by indicators of strained ICU capacity.


This is a population-based cohort study of 12,265 adults admitted to nine ICUs in Alberta from June 2012 to December 2014. We used a path-analysis modeling strategy and mixed-effects multivariate regression analysis to evaluate direct and integrated associations (mediated through Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) II score) between afterhours admission (22:00–06:59 h) and ICU mortality. Further analysis examined the effects of strained ICU capacity and varied definitions of afterhours and weekend admissions. ICU occupancy ≥ 90% or clustering of admissions (≥ 0.15, defined as number of admissions 2 h before or after the index admission, divided by the number of ICU beds) were used as indicators of strained capacity.


Of 12,265 admissions, 34.7% (n = 4251) occurred afterhours. The proportion of afterhours admissions varied amongst ICUs (range 26.7–37.8%). Patients admitted afterhours were younger (median (IQR) 58 (44–70) vs 60 (47–70) years, p < 0.0001), more likely to have a medical diagnosis (75.9% vs 72.1%, p < 0.0001), and had higher APACHE II scores (20.9 (8.6) vs 19.9 (8.3), p < 0.0001). Crude ICU mortality was greater for those admitted afterhours (15.9% vs 14.1%, p = 0.007), but following multivariate adjustment there was no direct or integrated effect on ICU mortality (odds ratio (OR) 1.024; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.923–1.135, p = 0.658). Furthermore, direct and integrated analysis showed no association of afterhours admission and hospital mortality (p = 0.90) or hospital length of stay (LOS) (p = 0.27), although ICU LOS was shorter (p = 0.049). Early-morning admission (00:00–06:59 h) with ICU occupancy ≥ 90% was associated with short-term (≤ 7 days) and all-cause ICU mortality.


One-third of critically ill patients are admitted to the ICU afterhours. Afterhours ICU admission was not associated with greater mortality risk in most circumstances but was sensitive to strained ICU capacity.
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