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Of all the 2256 adult cardiac surgical patients operated upon during a 12-month period from 1st February 1992 in three units, only 162 (7.2%) spent more than 48 h in the intensive care unit (ICU) (median 6 days, range 3-90). There were 47 deaths in ICU, 7 more before hospital discharge, and a further 10 before the study end-point of one year after surgery. All 98 1-year survivors were at home with 86 of them reporting their quality of life, on formal evaluation, to be within the reference range which we have established for a less complicated cohort of cardiac surgical patients. Prospectively collected physiological measurements were used in a mathematical model to test how well we could predict which patients will die and which of the survivors have a poor quality of life. The algorithm performs well for cardiac surgery patients with a specificity of 98%. If treatment had been withdrawn when death or poor quality of life became predictable, the maximum number of ICU bed days that could be freed was of the order of 2%. The plight of these patients is distressing, but most survive and do well and they are infrequent compared with the large majority who survive to leave hospital after a short ICU stay.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur J Cardiothorac Surg

Publication Date





426 - 431


Adult, Aged, Algorithms, Cause of Death, Cohort Studies, Critical Care, England, Female, Follow-Up Studies, Heart Diseases, Hospital Mortality, Humans, Length of Stay, Life Support Care, Male, Middle Aged, Models, Theoretical, Multiple Organ Failure, Postoperative Complications, Prospective Studies, Quality of Life, Severity of Illness Index, Survival Analysis