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ICU Deaths More Likely on Weekends, Review Reveals
Date:7/7/2010

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, July 6 (HealthDay News) -- Patients admitted to an intensive care unit over the weekend may be more likely to die than those admitted at other times, perhaps because of reduced staffing, a review of research finds.

So should you hold out until Monday morning if you develop chest pains or a high temperature on the weekend? Absolutely not, said Dr. Richard Dubinsky, director of the neurology residency program at University of Kansas Medical Center, who is familiar with the review's findings.

"Don't wait," he added. "If you think that you are seriously ill or having a heart attack or a stroke, do not wait to summon assistance."

For the review, published in the July issue of the journal Chest, researchers examined the results of 10 studies exploring the link between time of admission to an ICU and death rates. The studies were conducted in North America, Europe and Asia.

"We thought it was still a controversial issue whether patients admitted to an ICU during off hours are at increased risk of death," said review lead author Dr. Rodrigo Cavallazzi, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Louisville.

Eight studies examined mortality during the day versus nighttime and found no difference. Six studies examined admissions of 180,600 people during weekends compared to weekdays and estimated that those admitted over the weekend were 8 percent more likely to die.

But the risk could actually be as high as 13 percent -- or as low as 4 percent, Cavallazzi said. The review authors adjusted their statistics so they wouldn't be thrown off by differences in the severity of illness between weekday and weekend patients.

The study results don't allow Cavallazzi to do anything but speculate about the discrepancy between weekday and weekend mortality.

"It may be more difficult to obtain important tests and therapies during the weeken
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