Background: Respiratory intermediate care units (RICU) are hospital locations to treat acute and acute on chronic respiratory failure. Dedicated weaning centers (WC) are facilities for long-term weaning.
Aim: We propose and describe the initial results of a long-term weaning model consisting of sequential activity of a RICU and a WC.
Methods: We retrospectively analysed characteristics and outcome of tracheostomised difficult-to wean patients admitted to a RICU and, when necessary, to a dedicated WC along a 18-month period.
Results: Since February 2008 to November 2009, 49 tracheostomised difficult-to wean patients were transferred from ICUs to a University-Hospital RICU after a mean ICU length of stay (LOS) of 32.6 +/- 26.6 days. The weaning success rate in RICU was 67.3% with a mean LOS of 16.6 +/- 10.9 days. Five patients (10.2%) died either in the RICU or after being transferred to ICU, 10 (20.4%) failed weaning and were transferred to a dedicated WC where 6 of them (60%) were weaned. One of these patients was discharged from WC needing invasive mechanical ventilation for less than 12h, 2 died in the WC, 1 was transferred to a ICU. The overall weaning success rate of the model was 79.6%, with 16.3% and 4.8% in-hospital and 3-month mortality respectively. The model resulted in an overall 39 845 +/- 22 578 euro mean cost saving per patient compared to ICU.
Conclusion: The sequential activity of a RICU and a WC resulted in additive weaning success rate of difficult-to wean patients. The cost-benefit ratio of the program warrants prospective investigations.