Variation in care practices across pediatric acute care cardiology units: Results of the Pediatric Acute Care Cardiology Collaborative (PAC3 ) hospital survey

Congenit Heart Dis. 2019 May;14(3):419-426. doi: 10.1111/chd.12739. Epub 2019 Jan 3.


Background: The Pediatric Acute Care Cardiology Collaborative (PAC3 ) was established in 2014 to improve the quality, value, and experience of hospital-based cardiac acute care outside of the intensive care unit. An initial PAC3 project was a comprehensive survey to understand unit structure, practices, and resource utilization across the collaborative. This report aims to describe the previously unknown degree of practice variation across member institutions.

Methods: A 126-stem question survey was developed with a total of 412 possible response fields across nine domains including demographics, staffing, available resources and therapies, and standard care practices. Five supplemental questions addressed surgical case volume and number of cardiac acute care unit (CACU) admissions. Responses were recorded and stored in Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap).

Results: Surveys were completed by 31 out of 34 centers (91%) with minimal incomplete fields. A majority (61%) of centers have a single dedicated CACU, which is contiguous or adjacent to the intensive care unit in 48%. A nurse staffing ratio of 3:1 is most common (71%) and most (84%) centers employed a resource nurse. Centralized wireless rhythm monitoring is used in 84% of centers with 54% staffed continuously. There was significant variation in the use of noninvasive respiratory support, vasoactive infusions, and ventricular assist devices across the collaborative. Approximately half of the surveyed centers had lesion-specific postoperative pathways and approximately two-thirds had protocols for single-ventricle patients.

Conclusions: The PAC3 hospital survey is the most comprehensive description of systems and care practices unique to CACUs to date. There exists considerable heterogeneity among unit composition and variation in care practices. These variations may allow for identification of best practices and improved quality of care for patients.

Keywords: cardiovascular care unit; inpatient cardiology; pediatric cardiology; quality improvement.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Cardiologists / trends
  • Cardiology / trends*
  • Cardiology Service, Hospital / trends*
  • Cardiovascular Agents / therapeutic use
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Healthcare Disparities / trends*
  • Heart-Assist Devices / trends
  • Humans
  • Noninvasive Ventilation / trends
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / trends
  • Pediatricians / trends
  • Pediatrics / trends*
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling / trends
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends*
  • Quality Improvement / trends*
  • Quality Indicators, Health Care / trends*
  • United States
  • Wireless Technology / trends


  • Cardiovascular Agents