Many emergency department (ED) patients in diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) are admitted to an inpatient intensive care unit (ICU), while ICU capacity is under increasing strain. The Emergency Critical Care Center (EC3), a hybrid ED-ICU setting, opened with the goal of providing rapid initiation of ICU care in the ED.
We sought to evaluate the impact of an ED-ICU on disposition and safety outcomes for adult ED patients in DKA.
This was a retrospective pre–post cohort of ED visits from 2012–2018 at a single academic medical center. Adult ED patients in DKA (pH < 7.30, HCO3 < 18 mEq/L, anion gap > 14, and glucose > 250 mg/dL) immediately before (pre-EC3) and after (post-EC3) opening of an ED-ICU were identified. ED disposition and safety data were collected and analyzed.
We identified 631 patient encounters: 217 pre-EC3 and 414 post-EC3. Baseline demographics were similar between cohorts. Fewer patients in the post-EC3 cohort were admitted to an ICU (11.6% vs. 23.5%, p < 0.001, number needed to treat [NNT] = 8) or general floor bed (58.0% vs. 73.3%, p < 0.001, NNT = 6), and more were discharged from the ED (27.1% vs. 1.4%, p < 0.001, NNT = 4). Rates of hypokalemia (10.1% vs. 6.0%, p = 0.08) and admission to non-ICU with transfer to ICU within 24 h (0.5% vs. 0%, p = 0.30) did not differ.
Management of patients with DKA in an ED-ICU was associated with decreased ICU and hospital utilization with similar safety outcomes. Managing rapidly reversible critical illnesses in an ED-ICU may help obviate increasing strain facing many health care systems.
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Published online: December 13, 2019
Accepted: October 13, 2019
Received in revised form: September 27, 2019
Received: June 17, 2019
Reprints are not available from the authors.
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