Implementation, reliability testing, and compliance monitoring of the Confusion Assessment Method for the Intensive Care Unit in trauma patients

Intensive Care Med. 2008 Jul;34(7):1263-8. doi: 10.1007/s00134-008-1031-x. Epub 2008 Feb 23.


Objective: To implement delirium monitoring, test reliability, and monitor compliance of performing the Confusion Assessment Method for the Intensive Care Unit (CAM-ICU) in trauma patients.

Design and setting: Prospective, observational study in a level 1 trauma unit of a tertiary care, university-based medical center.

Patients: Acutely injured patients admitted to the trauma unit between 1 February 2006 and 16 April 2006.

Measurements and results: Following web-based teaching modules and group in-services, bedside nurses evaluated patients daily for depth of sedation with the Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale (RASS) and for the presence of delirium with the CAM-ICU. On randomly assigned days over a 10-week period, evaluations by nursing staff were followed by evaluations by an expert evaluator of the RASS and the CAM-ICU to assess compliance and reliability of the CAM-ICU in trauma patients. Following the audit period the nurses completed a postimplementation survey. The expert evaluator performed 1,011 random CAM-ICU assessments within 1h of the bedside nurse's assessments. Nurses completed the CAM-ICU assessments in 84% of evaluations. Overall agreement (kappa) between nurses and expert evaluator was 0.77 (0.721-0.822; p < 0.0001), in TBI patients 0.75 (0.667-0.829; p < 0.0001) and in mechanically ventilated patients 0.62 (0.534-0.704; p < 0.0001). The survey revealed that nurses were confident in performing the CAM-ICU, realized the importance of delirium, and were satisfied with the training that they received. It also acknowledged obstacles to implementation including nursing time and failure of physicians/surgeons to address treatment approaches for delirium.

Conclusions: The CAM-ICU can be successfully implemented in a university-based trauma unit with high compliance and reliability. Quality improvement projects seeking to implement delirium monitoring would be wise to address potential pitfalls including time complaints and the negative impact of physician indifference regarding this form of organ dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Confusion / classification
  • Confusion / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurse's Role
  • Nursing Assessment*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Tennessee
  • Trauma Centers*