Past, present, and future of mortality risk scores in the contemporary cardiac intensive care unit

Eur Heart J Acute Cardiovasc Care. 2021 Oct 27;10(8):940-946. doi: 10.1093/ehjacc/zuab072.


Risk stratification dates to the dawn of the cardiac intensive care unit (CICU). As the CICU has evolved from a dedicated unit caring for patients with acute myocardial infarction to a complex healthcare environment encompassing a broad array of acute and chronic cardiovascular pathology, an expanding array of risk scores are available that can be applied to CICU patients. Most of these scores were designed for use either in patients with a specific acute cardiovascular diagnosis or unselected critically ill patients, and risk scores developed in other populations often underperform in the CICU. More recently, risk scores have been developed specific to the CICU population, demonstrating improved performance. All existing risk scores have relevant limitations, both in terms of performance and applicability to patient care. Risk scores have been predominantly developed to predict short-term mortality, either by quantifying severity of illness or by incorporating other risk factors for mortality. It is essential to distinguish mortality risk attributable to severity of illness, which may be modifiable through intervention, from mortality risk attributable to non-modifiable risk factors. This review discusses established risk scores applicable to the CICU population, details how risk score performance is characterized, describes how new risk scores can be developed, explains how the information provided by risk scores can be used in clinical practice, and highlights how novel risk stratification approaches can be developed.

Keywords: Acute coronary syndromes; Cardiac intensive care unit; Mortality; Severity of illness; Survival; Risk scores.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Care Units*
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors