Objective: Comparison of severity and diagnosis-adjusted mortality rates from pediatric intensive care units (ICUs) staffed by physicians training in pediatric critical care, as well as pediatric residents, with mortality rates from pediatric ICUs staffed with only pediatric residents.
Design: Cohort study.
Setting: Sixteen volunteer pediatric ICUs, eight with critical care fellowships, and eight without such programs.
Patients: Consecutive admissions until at least 14 deaths occurred at each site.
Measurements and main results: Descriptive data and Pediatric Risk of Mortality scores were collected. Severity and diagnosis-adjusted mortality risk for each patient was computed by a predictor developed in an independent sample. The effect of fellowship programs was analyzed at the institution level by ranking the pediatric ICUs in terms of observed/predicted mortality rates, and, at the patient level, by including a training factor into the predictor model. The use of monitoring and therapeutic modalities was compared in the two types of pediatric ICUs by severity-adjusted odds ratios. There were 2,744 admissions (145 deaths) to the eight fellowship pediatric ICUs and 3,006 admissions (150 deaths) to the eight nonfellowship pediatric ICUs. Institutional characteristics were not different between the two pediatric ICU sets. The raw mortality rates were similar (fellowship 5.28%; nonfellowship 4.99%, p = .714). Institution-level analyses indicated that fellowship pediatric ICUs performed better than nonfellowship pediatric ICUs; fellowship pediatric ICUs ranked better than pediatric ICUs without such programs (Wilcoxon rank-sum test, p = .020). However, both the best and the worst ranked pediatric ICUs had fellowships. Patient-level analyses also indicated that outcome was significantly influenced by the fellowship status of the pediatric ICU. Using two different patient-level analytic approaches, the odds of dying in a fellowship pediatric ICU vs. a nonfellowship pediatric ICU were 0.592 (95% confidence interval 0.468 to 0.749, p = .0001) and 0.714 (95% confidence interval 0.529 to 0.964, p = .028). Pediatric ICUs with fellowship programs performed more (p < .05) invasive monitoring, including intra-arterial catheters and central venous pressure catheters, and more technological therapies such as mechanical ventilation.
Conclusions: Pediatric ICUs with critical care fellowship programs are generally associated with better risk-adjusted mortality rates than pediatric ICUs without such fellowship training programs. The cause for this effect requires a more in-depth study. The presence or absence of such training programs does not guarantee superior or inferior performance.