The use of mechanical ventilation in the ED

Am J Emerg Med. 2012 Sep;30(7):1183-8. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2011.09.008. Epub 2011 Nov 17.


Objectives: Although EDs are responsible for the initial care of critically ill patients and the amount of critical care provided in the ED is increasing, there are few data examining mechanical ventilation (MV) in the ED. In addition, characteristics of ED-based ventilation may affect planning for ventilator shortages during pandemic influenza or bioterrorist events. The study examined the epidemiology of MV in US EDs, including demographic, clinical, and hospital characteristics; indications for MV; ED length of stay (LOS); and in-hospital mortality.

Methods: This study was a retrospective review of the 1993 to 2007 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey ED data sets. Ventilated patients were compared with ED patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and to all other ED visits.

Results: There were 3.6 million ED MV visits (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.2-4.0 million) over the study period. Sex, age, race, and payment source were similar for mechanically ventilated and ICU patients (P > .05 for all). Approximately 12.5% of ventilated patients underwent cardiopulmonary resuscitation compared with 1.7% of ICU admissions and 0.2% of all other ED visits (P < .0001). Accordingly, in-hospital mortality was significantly higher for ventilated patients (24%; 95% CI, 13.1%-34.9%) than both comparison groups (9.3% and 2.5%, respectively). Median LOS for ventilated patients was 197 minutes (interquartile range, 112-313 minutes) compared with 224 minutes for ICU admissions and 140 minutes for all other ED visits.

Conclusions: Patients undergoing ED MV have particularly high in-hospital mortality rates, but their ED LOS is sufficient for implementation of evidence-based ventilator interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Respiration, Artificial / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • Young Adult