Objective: To describe the growth and distribution of pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) beds in the United States from 1995 to 2001 and the characteristics of PICUs in 2001.
Study design: This was a cross-sectional survey of PICUs in 1995 to 1996 and 2001 to 2002.
Results: There were 306 general PICUs in the United States in 1995 and 349 in 2001 (13.7% growth). In both survey periods, approximately half of the PICUs had <or=8 beds. The largest growth (34.4%) was in PICUs with >or=15 beds. There were 3899 PICU beds in 2001 (23.9% increase from 1995), with a mean number of PICU beds per pediatric population (age <18 years) of 1/18542 in the United States (17.5% increase from 1995). There was an increase in the number of annual admissions, occupancy rate, length of stay, percentage intubated, mortality rate, and number of intensivists per PICU with increasing bed size. In 2001, 94% of PICUs had a pediatric intensivist on staff, and these specialists were in-house at night in 17% of all PICUs and in 30% of PICUs with >or=15 beds.
Conclusions: The number of PICU beds is growing more rapidly than the rate of pediatric population growth. The impetus for this growth is unclear.