Interhospital transfer of critically ill and injured children: an evaluation of transfer patterns, resource utilization, and clinical outcomes

J Hosp Med. 2009 Mar;4(3):164-70. doi: 10.1002/jhm.418.


Objective: To describe patterns of transfer, resource utilization, and clinical outcomes associated with interhospital transfer of critically ill and injured children.

Design: Secondary analysis of administrative claims data.

Participants: Children 0 to 18 years in the Michigan Medicaid program who underwent interhospital transfer for intensive care from January 1, 2002 to December 31, 2004. The 3 sources of transfer from referring hospitals were: emergency department (ED), ward, or intensive care unit (ICU).

Measurements: Mortality and duration of hospital stay at the receiving hospitals.

Results: Of 1643 interhospital transfer admissions to intensive care at receiving hospitals, 62%, 31%, and 7% were from the ED, ward, and ICU of referring hospitals, respectively. Nineteen percent had comorbid illness, while 11% had organ dysfunction at the referring hospital. After controlling for comorbid illness, patient age, and pretransfer organ dysfunction; compared with ED transfers, mortality in the receiving hospital was higher for ward transfers (odds ratio [OR], 1.76; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.02-3.03) but not for ICU transfers. Also, compared with ED transfers, hospital stay was longer by 1.5 days for ward transfers and by 13.5 days for ICU transfers.

Conclusion: In this multiyear, statewide sample, mortality and resource utilization were higher among children who underwent interhospital transfer to intensive care after initial hospitalization, compared with those transferred directly from emergency to intensive care. Decision-making underlying initial triage and subsequent interhospital transfer of critically ill children warrants further study.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Critical Illness*
  • Female
  • Health Resources / statistics & numerical data*
  • Hospital Departments
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insurance, Health, Reimbursement
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Medicaid
  • Michigan / epidemiology
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care*
  • Patient Transfer / organization & administration*
  • Triage
  • United States