Objective: To assess on a multinational level the prevalence and corresponding factors of selected unintended events that compromise patient safety (sentinel events) in intensive care units (ICUs).
Design: An observational, 24-h cross-sectional study of incidents in five representative categories.
Setting: 205 ICUs worldwide
Measurements: Events were reported by intensive care unit staff members with the use of a structured questionnaire. Both ICU- and patient-related factors were assessed.
Results: In 1,913 adult patients a total of 584 events affecting 391 patients were reported. During 24 h multiple errors related to medication occurred in 136 patients; unplanned dislodgement or inappropriate disconnection of lines, catheters, and drains in 158; equipment failure in 112; loss, obstruction or leakage of artificial airway in 47; and inappropriate turn-off of alarms in 17. Per 100 patient days, 38.8 (95% confidence interval 34.7-42.9) events were observed. In a multiple logistic regression with ICU as a random component, the following were associated with elevated odds for experiencing a sentinel event: any organ failure (odds ratio 1.13, 95% confidence interval 1.00-1.28), a higher intensity in level of care (odds ratio 1.62, 95% confidence interval 1.18-2.22), and time of exposure (odds ratio 1.06, 95% confidence interval 1.04-1.08).
Conclusions: Sentinel events related to medication, indwelling lines, airway, and equipment failure in ICUs occur with considerable frequency. Although patient safety is recognised as a serious issue in many ICUs, there is an urgent need for development and implementation of strategies for prevention and early detection of errors.