Fast-track Cardiac Care for Adult Cardiac Surgical Patients

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Oct 17;10:CD003587. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003587.pub2.


Background: Fast-track cardiac care is a complex intervention involving several components of care during cardiac anaesthesia and in the postoperative period, all with the ultimate aim of early extubation after surgery, to reduce the length of stay in the intensive care unit and in the hospital. Safe and effective fast-track cardiac care may reduce hospital costs. This is an update of a Cochrane review published in 2003.

Objectives: To update the evidence on the safety and effectiveness of fast-track cardiac care compared to conventional (not fast-track) care in adult patients undergoing cardiac surgery.

Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (2012, Issue 3), MEDLINE (January 1966 to April 2012), EMBASE (January 1980 to April 2012), CINAHL (January 1982 to April 2012), and ISI Web of Science (January 2003 to April 2012). We searched reference lists of articles and contacted experts in the field.

Selection criteria: All randomized controlled trials of adult cardiac surgical patients (coronary artery bypass grafts, aortic valve replacement, mitral valve replacement) that compared fast-track cardiac care and conventional (not fast-track) care groups were included. We focused on the following fast-track interventions that were designed for early extubation after surgery, administration of low-dose opioid based general anaesthesia during cardiac surgery and the use of a time-directed extubation protocol after surgery. The primary outcome was the risk of mortality. Secondary outcomes included postoperative complications, reintubation within 24 hours of surgery, time to extubation, length of stay in the intensive care unit and in the hospital, quality of life after surgery and hospital costs.

Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently assessed trial quality and extracted the data. Study authors were contacted for additional information. We used a random-effects model and reported relative risk (RR), mean difference (MD) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).

Main results: Twenty-five trials involving 4118 patients were included in the review. There were two studies with a low risk of bias and nine studies with a high risk of bias. There were no differences in the risk of mortality within the first year after surgery between low-dose versus high-dose opioid based general anaesthesia groups (RR 0.58, 95% CI 0.28 to 1.18) and between early extubation protocol versus usual care groups (RR 0.84, 95% CI 0.40 to 1.75).There were no significant differences between low-dose versus high-dose opioid based anaesthesia groups for postoperative complications: myocardial infarction (RR 0.98, 95% CI 0.48 to 1.99), reintubation (RR 1.77, 95% CI 0.38 to 8.27), acute renal failure (RR 1.19, 95% CI 0.33 to 4.33), major bleeding (RR 0.48, 95% CI 0.16 to 1.44), and stroke (RR 1.17, 95% CI 0.36 to 3.78). Compared to the usual care, there were no significant differences in the risk of postoperative complications associated with early extubation: myocardial infarction (RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.55 to 1.60), reintubation (RR 1.91, 95% CI 0.90 to 4.07), acute renal failure (RR 0.77, 95% CI 0.19 to 3.10), major bleeding (RR 0.80, 95% CI 0.45 to 1.44), stroke (RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.31 to 2.46), major sepsis (RR 1.25, 95% CI 0.08 to 19.75) and wound infection (RR 0.67, 95% CI 0.25 to 1.83).Although there were high levels of heterogeneity, both low-dose opioid anaesthesia and the use of time-directed extubation protocols were associated with reductions in the time to extubation (3.0 to 10.5 hours) and in the length of stay in the intensive care unit (0.4 to 8.7 hours). However, these fast-track care interventions were not associated with reductions in the total length of stay in hospital. One high quality cost-effectiveness analysis included in a randomized controlled trial showed that early extubation was likely to be cost-effective.

Authors' conclusions: The use of low-dose opioid based general anaesthesia and time-directed protocols for fast-track interventions have similar risks of mortality and major postoperative complications to conventional (not fast-track) care, and therefore appear to be safe in patients considered to be at low to moderate risk. These fast-track interventions reduced the time to extubation and shortened the length of stay in the intensive care unit, but did not reduce the length of stay in the hospital.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aortic Aneurysm / surgery*
  • Aortic Valve / surgery
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Coronary Artery Bypass*
  • Early Ambulation
  • Heart Valve Prosthesis Implantation*
  • Humans
  • Intubation, Intratracheal*
  • Length of Stay
  • Mitral Valve / surgery
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk
  • Time Factors