Adverse Events During Intrahospital Transport of Critically Ill Children: A Systematic Review

Anesth Analg. 2020 Oct;131(4):1135-1145. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0000000000004585.


Intrahospital transport of a critically ill patient is often required to achieve a diagnostic and/or therapeutic objective. However, clinicians who recommend a procedure that requires transport are often not fully aware of the risks of transport. Clinicians involved in the care of critically ill children may therefore benefit from a clear enumeration of adverse events that have occurred during transport, risk factors for those events, and guidance for event prevention. The objective of this review was to collect all published harm and adverse events that occurred in critically ill children in the context of transport within a medical center, as well as the incidence of each type of event. A secondary objective was to identify what interventions have been previously studied that reduce events and to collect recommendations for harm prevention from study authors. Ovid MEDLINE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Embase, and CINAHL were searched in January 2018 and again in December 2018. Terms indicating pediatric patients, intrahospital transport, critical illness, and adverse events were used. Titles and abstracts were screened and full text was reviewed for any article meeting inclusion criteria. If articles included both children and adults, incidence data were collected only if the number of pediatric patients could be ascertained. Of 471 full-text articles reviewed, 40 met inclusion criteria, of which 24 included only children, totaling 4104 patient transports. Heterogeneity was high, owing to a wide range of populations, settings, data collection methods, and outcomes. The incidence of adverse events varied widely between studies. Examples of harm included emergent tracheostomy, pneumothorax, and cardiac arrest requiring chest compressions. Respiratory and airway events were the most common type of adverse event. Hypothermia was common in infants. One transport-associated death was reported. When causation was assessed, most events were judged to have been preventable or potentially mitigated by improved double-checks and usage of checklists. Prospective studies demonstrated the superiority of mechanical ventilation over manual ventilation for intubated patients. Risk of adverse events during critical care transport appears to relate to the patient's underlying illness and degree of respiratory support. Recommendations for reducing these adverse events have frequently included the use of checklists. Other recommendations include optimization of the patient's physiological status before transport, training with transport equipment, double-checking of equipment before transport, and having experienced clinicians accompany the patient. All available recommendations for reducing transport-associated adverse events in included articles were collated and included.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Critical Care / methods
  • Critical Illness / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Pediatrics
  • Transportation of Patients*