Objective To determine whether postoperative cardiac care by cardiothoracic surgeons in a semiclosed intensive care unit model could be distinguished from that given by intensivists who are not board certified in cardiothoracic surgery.
Design From January 2007 to February 2009, we retrospectively examined data on patients after cardiac operations from 2 consecutive periods during which full-time management of intensive care was changed from noncardiothoracic intensivists (period 1, 168 patients) to cardiothoracic surgeons (period 2, 272 patients).
Main Outcome Measures Variables measured included Society of Thoracic Surgeons observed and expected mortality, central venous line infections, ventilator-acquired pneumonia, red blood cell exposure, adherence to blood glucose level target at 6 AM on the first and second postoperative days, length of stay, and intensive care unit pharmacy costs. Results were compared using a 2-sample t test or 2-tailed Fisher exact test.
Results In similar populations, as witnessed by equivalent Society of Thoracic Surgeons operative risk, cardiothoracic surgeons providing postoperative critical care led to a mean (SD) decrease in hospital length of stay from 13.4 (0.9) to 11.2 (0.4) days (P = .01) and decreased drug costs from $4300 (1000) to $1800 (200) (P < .001). These improvements occurred without losing benefits in other quality measures.
Conclusions By virtue of their cardiac-specific operative and nonoperative training, cardiothoracic surgeons may be uniquely qualified to provide postoperative cardiac critical care. In a semiclosed unit where care of the patient is codirected, the improvements noted may have been facilitated by the commonalities between surgeons and intensivists associated with similar training and experiences.