Characteristics and outcome of long-stay patients in a paediatric intensive care unit in Cape Town, South Africa

  • T L Nupen
  • A C Argent
  • B M Morrow


Background. Paediatric intensive care is a costly, specialised and limited resource in low- and middle-income countries. The implications of extended paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) stay in South Africa (SA) are not known.
Objectives. To describe the characteristics, outcomes and resource consumption of long-stay patients (LSPs) and to identify predictive factors for long PICU stay.
Methods. A retrospective review of routinely collected data on all children admitted to an SA PICU over one calendar year. Long PICU stay was defined statistically as >19 days. Long- and short-stay patient (SSP) groups were compared, and variables significantly associated with long stay on univariate analysis were entered into a stepwise multiple regression model.
Results. Over the study period, 1 126 children (median age 8 months, 60.9% male) were admitted to the PICU, occupying 5 936 bed-days; 54 LSPs (4.8%) utilised 1 807 (30.4%) bed-days. Mortality and the standardised mortality ratio (actual/mean predicted mortality) in LSPs and SSPs were 29.6% v. 12% (p=0.002) and 2.4 v. 0.7 (p=0.002), respectively. Median duration of stay for LSPs and SSPs was 29.5 days and 2 days, respectively (p<0.0001). LSPs were younger than SSPs (median 4 months (interquartile range 2 - 17) v. 9 months (2 - 34); p=0.03), and fewer were male (48% v. 61.6%, p=0.049). On multivariate analysis, only female gender was independently associated with long PICU stay.
Conclusions. LSPs represent a small proportion of PICU admissions, yet have a higher mortality rate than SSPs and consume disproportionate PICU resources. No predictive model could be established for early recognition of potential LSPs to plan PICU bed allocation effectively. 


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 0256-95749
print ISSN: 2078-5135