Background: Crystalloids, nonprotein colloids (NPCs), and albumin are used for many indications. The use of the least costly agent in situations where these products are clinically interchangeable can reduce health care costs.
Objectives: To characterize the prescribing of albumin and NPC. To evaluate the appropriateness and cost implications of their use.
Methods: An observational study conducted in 15 academic health centers from April 11 through May 6, 1994, to assess the appropriateness of albumin and NPC use, based on "model" consensus-derived indication guidelines.
Results: A total of 969 case report forms were evaluated. Albumin and NPCs were administered in 83% and 17% of the cases, respectively. Albumin and NPCs were administered mostly in the intensive care (50%) or operating room (31%) settings. The most common prescribers of these products were surgeons (45%) and anesthesiologists (20%). In 87% of cases, albumin or NPC was administered to reach a defined end point (eg, to achieve a target physiological state or to resolve a pathophysiological condition). Only one albumin recipient experienced an adverse event; no adverse events were noted with NPC administration. Approximately $203,000 was spent on albumin and NPC therapy for the 969 cases; $49,702 (24%) was spent on appropriate administrations, $124,939 (62%) on inappropriate administrations, and $28,014 (14%) on unevaluated indications.
Conclusions: Evaluated against model guidelines, most of the albumin and NPC use in the study was found to be inappropriate. The need for institutions to define and implement guidelines that focus on the cost-efficient use of these agents is recommended in an increasingly cost-conscious health care environment.