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Risk factors associated with unplanned ICU admissions following paediatric surgery: A systematic review


Background. Unplanned admissions to the intensive care unit (ICU) have important implications in the general management of patients. Research in this area has been conducted in the adult and non-surgical population. To date, there is no systematic review addressing risk factors in the paediatric surgical population.

Objective. To synthesise the information from studies that explore the risk factors associated with unplanned ICU admissions following surgery in children through a systematic review process.

Method. We conducted a systematic review of published literature (PROSPERO registration CRD42020163766), adhering to the Preferred Reporting of Observational Studies and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) statement. The Population, Exposure, Comparator, Outcome (PECO) strategy used was based on: population – paediatric population, exposure – risk factors, comparator – other, and outcome – unplanned ICU admission. Data that reported on unplanned ICU admissions following paediatric surgery were extracted and analysed. Quality of the studies was assessed using the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale.

Results. Seven studies were included in the data synthesis. Four studies were of good quality with the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale score ≥7 points. The pooled prevalence (95% confidence interval) estimate of unplanned ICU stay was 2.69% (0.05 - 8.6%) and ranged between 0.06% and 8.3%. Significant risk factors included abnormal sleep studies and the presence of comorbidities in adenotonsillectomy surgery. In the general surgical population, younger age, comorbidities and general anaesthesia were significant. Abdominal surgery and ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery resulted in a higher risk of unplanned ICU admission. Owing to the heterogeneity of the data, a meta-analysis with risk prediction could not be performed.

Conclusion. Significant patient, surgical and anaesthetic risk factors associated with unplanned ICU admission in children following surgery are described in this systematic review. A combination of these factors may direct planning toward anticipation of the need for a higher level of postoperative care. Further work to develop a predictive score for unplanned ICU stay is desirable.

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eISSN: 2078-676X
print ISSN: 1562-8264