Original research| Volume 100, ISSUE 2, P270-277.e1, February 2019

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Improving Outcomes for Critically Ill Cardiovascular Patients Through Increased Physical Therapy Staffing

Published:August 30, 2018DOI:



      To examine the effect of increasing physical therapy (PT) staff in a cardiovascular intensive care unit (CVICU) on temporal measures of PT interventions and on outcomes important to patients and hospitals.


      Retrospective pre/post subgroup analysis from a quality improvement initiative.


      Academic medical center.


      Cardiovascular patients in either a baseline (N=52) or quality improvement period (N=62) with a CVICU length of stay (LOS) ≥7 days and use of any one of the following: mechanical ventilation, continuous renal replacement therapy, or mechanical circulatory support.


      The 6-month quality improvement initiative increased CVICU-dedicated PT staff from 2 to 4.

      Main Outcome Measures

      Changes in physical therapy delivery were examined using the frequency and daily duration of PT intervention. Post-CVICU LOS was the primary outcome. CVICU LOS, mobility change, and discharge level of care were secondary outcomes. A secondary analysis of hospital survivors was also conducted.


      Compared to those in the baseline period, cardiovascular patients in the quality improvement period participated in PT for an additional 9.6 minutes (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.9, 17.2) per day for all patients and 15.1 minutes (95% CI: 7.6, 22.6) for survivors. Post-CVICU LOS decreased 2.2 (95% CI: -6.0, 1.0) days for all patients and 2.6 days (95% CI: -5.3, 0.0) for survivors. CVICU LOS decreased 3.6 days (95% CI: -6.4, -0.8) for all patients and 3.1 days (95% CI: -6.4, -0.9) for survivors. Differences in mobility change and discharge level of care were not significant.


      Additional CVICU-dedicated PT staff was associated with increased PT treatment and reductions in CVICU and post-CVICU LOS. The effects of each were greatest for hospital survivors.


      List of abbreviations:

      AM-PAC (Activity Measure for Postacute Care), APACHE (Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation), CCI (Charlson comorbidity index), CRRT (continuous renal replacement therapy), CVICU (cardiovascular intensive care unit), EDW (enterprise data warehouse), ICU (intensive care unit), LOS (length of stay), MCS (mechanical circulatory support), MV (mechanical ventilation), PT (physical therapy), QI (quality improvement)
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