Germline mutations in the LKB1 gene (also known as STK11) cause the Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome, and somatic loss of LKB1 has emerged as causal event in a wide range of human malignancies, including melanoma, lung cancer, and cervical cancer. The LKB1 protein is a serine-threonine kinase that phosphorylates AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) and other downstream targets. Conditional knockout studies in mouse models have consistently shown that LKB1 loss promotes a highly-metastatic phenotype in diverse tissues, and human studies have demonstrated a strong association between LKB1 inactivation and tumor recurrence. Furthermore, LKB1 deficiency confers sensitivity to distinct classes of anticancer drugs. The ability to reliably identify LKB1-deficient tumors is thus likely to have important prognostic and predictive implications. Previous research studies have employed polyclonal antibodies with limited success, and there is no widely-employed immunohistochemical assay for LKB1. Here we report an assay based on a rabbit monoclonal antibody that can reliably detect endogenous LKB1 protein (and its absence) in mouse and human formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tissues. LKB1 protein levels determined through this assay correlated strongly with AMPK phosphorylation both in mouse and human tumors, and with mRNA levels in human tumors. Our studies fully validate this immunohistochemical assay for LKB1 in paraffin-embedded formalin tissue sections. This assay should be broadly useful for research studies employing mouse models and also for the development of human tissue-based assays for LKB1 in diverse clinical settings.
Non-verbal communication is an important aspect of the diagnostic and therapeutic process, especially with older patients. It is unknown how non-verbal communication varies with physician and patient race.
To examine the joint influence of physician race and patient race on non-verbal communication displayed by primary care physicians during medical interviews with patients 65 years or older.
DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS
Video-recordings of visits of 209 patients 65 years old or older to 30 primary care physicians at three clinics located in the Midwest and Southwest.
Duration of physicians’ open body position, eye contact, smile, and non-task touch, coded using an adaption of the Nonverbal Communication in Doctor–Elderly Patient Transactions form.
African American physicians with African American patients used more open body position, smile, and touch, compared to the average across other dyads (adjusted mean difference for open body position = 16.55, p < 0.001; smile = 2.35, p = 0.048; touch = 1.33, p < 0.001). African American physicians with white patients spent less time in open body position compared to the average across other dyads, but they also used more smile and eye gaze (adjusted mean difference for open body position = 27.25, p < 0.001; smile = 3.16, p = 0.005; eye gaze = 17.05, p < 0.001). There were no differences between white physicians’ behavior toward African American vs. white patients.
Race plays a role in physicians’ non-verbal communication with older patients. Its influence is best understood when physician race and patient race are considered jointly.
communication; race; aging
Adipose fins are enigmatic appendages found between the dorsal and caudal fins of some teleostean fishes. Long thought to be vestigial, degenerate second dorsal fins, remnants of the primitive gnathostome condition, adipose fins have since been recognized as novel morphologies. Unique among the fins of extant fishes, adipose fins have uniformly been described as passive structures, with no associated musculature. Here we provide the first description of a musculoskeletal linkage in an adipose fin, identified in the sun catfish Horabagrus brachysoma. Modified supracarinalis posterior muscles insert from the dorsal midline anterior to the adipose fin by tendons onto the fin base. An additional pair of posterior adipose-fin muscles also inserts upon the fin base and lay posterolateral to the fin, superficial to the axial muscle. This musculoskeletal linkage is an evolutionary innovation, a novel mechanism for controlling adipose-fin movement. These muscles appear to exemplify two approaches by which fins evolve to be actively controlled. We hypothesize that the anterior muscles arose through co-option of an existing fin linkage, while the posterior muscles originated as de novo fin muscles. These findings present adipose fins as a rich system within which to explore the evolution of novel vertebrate appendages.
adipose fin; evolutionary innovation; swimming; catfish
Acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) are life threatening clinical conditions seen in critically ill patients with diverse underlying illnesses. Lung injury may be perpetuated by ventilation strategies that do not limit lung volumes and airway pressures. We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) comparing pressure and volume-limited (PVL) ventilation strategies with more traditional mechanical ventilation in adults with ALI and ARDS.
Methods and Findings
We searched Medline, EMBASE, HEALTHSTAR and CENTRAL, related articles on PubMed™, conference proceedings and bibliographies of identified articles for randomized trials comparing PVL ventilation with traditional approaches to ventilation in critically ill adults with ALI and ARDS. Two reviewers independently selected trials, assessed trial quality, and abstracted data. We identified ten trials (n = 1,749) meeting study inclusion criteria. Tidal volumes achieved in control groups were at the lower end of the traditional range of 10–15 mL/kg. We found a clinically important but borderline statistically significant reduction in hospital mortality with PVL [relative risk (RR) 0.84; 95% CI 0.70, 1.00; p = 0.05]. This reduction in risk was attenuated (RR 0.90; 95% CI 0.74, 1.09, p = 0.27) in a sensitivity analysis which excluded 2 trials that combined PVL with open-lung strategies and stopped early for benefit. We found no effect of PVL on barotrauma; however, use of paralytic agents increased significantly with PVL (RR 1.37; 95% CI, 1.04, 1.82; p = 0.03).
This systematic review suggests that PVL strategies for mechanical ventilation in ALI and ARDS reduce mortality and are associated with increased use of paralytic agents.
A 74-year-old immunocompetent man admitted for severe retro-orbital headache was diagnosed with isolated sphenoiditis. At the time of scheduled surgery, the patient was mildly obtunded, and a head CT revealed a temporal lobe abscess. The patient underwent a left temporal craniectomy and a bilateral endoscopic sphenoid sinusotomy, which revealed gross fungal debris. The patient made a full recovery with resolution of abscess and sinus findings. Suspicion for intracranial infection should be raised in any sinus patient with neurological changes. Early diagnosis with imaging studies is extremely important for surgical drainage before permanent neurological sequelae.
Abcess; allergic sinusitis; fungal infection; headache; sinonasal; sphenoiditis; temporal lobe
In the 2003 Toronto SARS outbreak, SARS-CoV was transmitted in hospitals despite adherence to infection control procedures. Considerable controversy resulted regarding which procedures and behaviours were associated with the greatest risk of SARS-CoV transmission.
A retrospective cohort study was conducted to identify risk factors for transmission of SARS-CoV during intubation from laboratory confirmed SARS patients to HCWs involved in their care. All SARS patients requiring intubation during the Toronto outbreak were identified. All HCWs who provided care to intubated SARS patients during treatment or transportation and who entered a patient room or had direct patient contact from 24 hours before to 4 hours after intubation were eligible for this study. Data was collected on patients by chart review and on HCWs by interviewer-administered questionnaire. Generalized estimating equation (GEE) logistic regression models and classification and regression trees (CART) were used to identify risk factors for SARS transmission.
45 laboratory-confirmed intubated SARS patients were identified. Of the 697 HCWs involved in their care, 624 (90%) participated in the study. SARS-CoV was transmitted to 26 HCWs from 7 patients; 21 HCWs were infected by 3 patients. In multivariate GEE logistic regression models, presence in the room during fiberoptic intubation (OR = 2.79, p = .004) or ECG (OR = 3.52, p = .002), unprotected eye contact with secretions (OR = 7.34, p = .001), patient APACHE II score ≥20 (OR = 17.05, p = .009) and patient Pa02/Fi02 ratio ≤59 (OR = 8.65, p = .001) were associated with increased risk of transmission of SARS-CoV. In CART analyses, the four covariates which explained the greatest amount of variation in SARS-CoV transmission were covariates representing individual patients.
Close contact with the airway of severely ill patients and failure of infection control practices to prevent exposure to respiratory secretions were associated with transmission of SARS-CoV. Rates of transmission of SARS-CoV varied widely among patients.
While bilaterality is a defining characteristic of triploblastic animals, several assemblages have managed to break this symmetry in order to exploit the adaptive peaks garnered through the lateralization of behaviour or morphology. One striking example of an evolved asymmetry in vertebrates comes from a group of scale-eating cichlid fishes from Lake Tanganyika. Members of the Perissodini tribe of cichlid fishes have evolved dental and craniofacial asymmetries in order to more effectively remove scales from the left or right flanks of prey. Here we examine the evolution and development of craniofacial morphology and laterality among Lake Tanganyika scale-eating cichlids.
Using both geometric and traditional morphometric methods we found that the craniofacial evolution in the Perissodini involved discrete shifts in skeletal anatomy that reflect differences in habitat preference and predation strategies. Further, we show that the evolutionary history of the Perissodini is characterized by an accentuation of craniofacial laterality such that certain taxa show elaborate sided differences in craniofacial shape consistent with the sub-partitioning of function between sides of the head during attacks. Craniofacial laterality in the scale-eating specialist Perissodus microlepis was found to be evident early in development and exhibited a unimodal distribution, which is contrary to the adult condition where jaw laterality has been described as a discrete, bimodal antisymmetry. Finally, using linkage and association analyses we identified a conserved locus for jaw handedness that segregates among East African cichlids.
We suggest that, during the evolution of the Perissodini, selection has accentuated a latent, genetically determined handedness of the craniofacial skeleton, enabling the evolution of jaw asymmetries in order to increase predation success. Continued work on the developmental genetic basis of laterality in the Perissodini will facilitate a better understanding of the evolution of this unique group of fishes, as well as of left-right axis determination among vertebrates in general.
TOC Summary Line: Healthcare workers in hospitals affected by SARS experience increased psychological stress 1–2 years after the outbreak.
Healthcare workers (HCWs) found the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) to be stressful, but the long-term impact is not known. From 13 to 26 months after the SARS outbreak, 769 HCWs at 9 Toronto hospitals that treated SARS patients and 4 Hamilton hospitals that did not treat SARS patients completed a survey of several adverse outcomes. Toronto HCWs reported significantly higher levels of burnout (p = 0.019), psychological distress (p<0.001), and posttraumatic stress (p<0.001). Toronto workers were more likely to have reduced patient contact and work hours and to report behavioral consequences of stress. Variance in adverse outcomes was explained by a protective effect of the perceived adequacy of training and support and by a provocative effect of maladaptive coping style and other individual factors. The results reinforce the value of effective staff support and training in preparation for future outbreaks.
Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome; Stress, Psychological; Health Personnel; Stress, Traumatic; Burnout, Professional, research
We aimed to determine the adverse events and important prognostic factors associated with interfacility transport of intubated and mechanically ventilated adult patients.
We performed a systematic review of MEDLINE, CENTRAL, EMBASE, CINAHL, HEALTHSTAR, and Web of Science (from inception until 10 January 2005) for all clinical studies describing the incidence and predictors of adverse events in intubated and mechanically ventilated adult patients undergoing interfacility transport. The bibliographies of selected articles were also examined.
Five studies (245 patients) met the inclusion criteria. All were case-series and two were prospective in design. Due to the paucity of studies and significant heterogeneity in study population, outcome events, and results, we synthesized data in a qualitative manner. Pre-transport severity of illness was reported in only one study. The most common indication for transport was a need for investigations and/or specialist care (three studies, 220 patients). Transport modalities included air (fixed or rotor wing; 66% of patients) and ground (31%) ambulance, and commercial aircraft (3%). Transport teams included a physician in three studies (220 patients). Death during transfer was rare (n = 1). No other adverse events or significant therapeutic interventions during transport were reported. One study reported a 19% (28/145) incidence of respiratory alkalosis on arrival and another study documented a 30% overall intensive care unit mortality, while no adverse events or outcomes were reported after arrival in the three other studies.
Insufficient data exist to draw firm conclusions regarding the mortality, morbidity, or risk factors associated with the interfacility transport of intubated and mechanically ventilated adult patients. Further study is required to define the risks and benefits of interfacility transfer in this patient population. Such information is important for the planning and allocation of resources related to transporting critically ill adults.
Respiratory failure from severe asthma is a potentially reversible, life-threatening condition. Poor outcome in this setting is frequently a result of the development of gas-trapping. This condition can arise in any mechanically ventilated patient, but those with severe airflow limitation have a predisposition. It is important that clinicians managing these types of patients understand that the use of mechanical ventilation can lead to or worsen gas-trapping. In this review we discuss the development of this complication during mechanical ventilation, techniques to measure it and strategies to limit its severity. We hope that by understanding such concepts clinicians will be able to reduce further the poor outcomes occasionally related to severe asthma.
Disaster management plans have traditionally been required to manage major traumatic events that create a large number of victims. Infectious diseases, whether they be natural (e.g. SARS [severe acute respiratory syndrome] and influenza) or the result of bioterrorism, have the potential to create a large influx of critically ill into our already strained hospital systems. With proper planning, hospitals, health care workers and our health care systems can be better prepared to deal with such an eventuality. This review explores the Toronto critical care experience of coping in the SARS outbreak disaster. Our health care system and, in particular, our critical care system were unprepared for this event, and as a result the impact that SARS had was worse than it could have been. Nonetheless, we were able to organize a response rapidly during the outbreak. By describing our successes and failures, we hope to help others to learn and avoid the problems we encountered as they develop their own disaster management plans in anticipation of similar future situations.
Critical care physicians may benefit from immediate access to medical reference material. We evaluated the feasibility and potential benefits of a handheld computer based knowledge access system linking a central academic intensive care unit (ICU) to multiple community-based ICUs.
Four community hospital ICUs with 17 physicians participated in this prospective interventional study. Following training in the use of an internet-linked, updateable handheld computer knowledge access system, the physicians used the handheld devices in their clinical environment for a 12-month intervention period. Feasibility of the system was evaluated by tracking use of the handheld computer and by conducting surveys and focus group discussions. Before and after the intervention period, participants underwent simulated patient care scenarios designed to evaluate the information sources they accessed, as well as the speed and quality of their decision making. Participants generated admission orders during each scenario, which were scored by blinded evaluators.
Ten physicians (59%) used the system regularly, predominantly for nonmedical applications (median 32.8/month, interquartile range [IQR] 28.3–126.8), with medical software accessed less often (median 9/month, IQR 3.7–13.7). Eight out of 13 physicians (62%) who completed the final scenarios chose to use the handheld computer for information access. The median time to access information on the handheld handheld computer was 19 s (IQR 15–40 s). This group exhibited a significant improvement in admission order score as compared with those who used other resources (P = 0.018). Benefits and barriers to use of this technology were identified.
An updateable handheld computer system is feasible as a means of point-of-care access to medical reference material and may improve clinical decision making. However, during the study, acceptance of the system was variable. Improved training and new technology may overcome some of the barriers we identified.
clinical; computer; critical care; decision support systems; handheld; internet; point-of-care systems; practice guidelines; simulation
Intravascular fluid therapy is a common critical care intervention. However, the optimal type of resuscitation fluid, crystalloid or colloid, remains controversial. Despite the many theoretical benefits of human albumin administration in critically ill patients, there has been little evidence to support its widespread clinical use. Previous systematic reviews have led to conflicting results regarding the safety and efficacy of albumin. The recently reported Saline versus Albumin Evaluation study has provided conclusive evidence that 4% albumin is as safe as saline for resuscitation, although no overall benefit of albumin use was seen. Subgroup analysis of the albumin-treated group revealed a trend towards decreased mortality in patients with septic shock, and a trend towards increased mortality in trauma patients, especially those with traumatic brain injury. The results of these subgroups, as well as the use of higher albumin concentrations and other synthetic colloids (dextrans, starches), require rigorous evaluation in clinical trials. Finally, the Saline versus Albumin Evaluation trial represents a methodological milestone in critical care medicine, due to its size, its efficient trial design, and its logistical coordination. Future studies are still required, however, to establish a therapeutic niche for albumin and other colloids.
albumins; colloids; critical care; crystalloids; fluid therapy
We conducted this study to evaluate the feasibility of implementing an internet-linked handheld computer procedure logging system in a critical care training program.
Subspecialty trainees in the Interdepartmental Division of Critical Care at the University of Toronto received and were trained in the use of Palm handheld computers loaded with a customized program for logging critical care procedures. The procedures were entered into the handheld device using checkboxes and drop-down lists, and data were uploaded to a central database via the internet. To evaluate the feasibility of this system, we tracked the utilization of this data collection system. Benefits and disadvantages were assessed through surveys.
All 11 trainees successfully uploaded data to the central database, but only six (55%) continued to upload data on a regular basis. The most common reason cited for not using the system pertained to initial technical problems with data uploading. From 1 July 2002 to 30 June 2003, a total of 914 procedures were logged. Significant variability was noted in the number of procedures logged by individual trainees (range 13–242). The database generated by regular users provided potentially useful information to the training program director regarding the scope and location of procedural training among the different rotations and hospitals.
A handheld computer procedure logging system can be effectively used in a critical care training program. However, user acceptance was not uniform, and continued training and support are required to increase user acceptance. Such a procedure database may provide valuable information that may be used to optimize trainees' educational experience and to document clinical training experience for licensing and accreditation.
critical care; handheld computers; internet; procedure logging; training program
Handheld computers have become a valuable and popular tool in various fields of medicine. A systematic review of articles was undertaken to summarize the current literature regarding the use of handheld devices in medicine. A variety of articles were identified, and relevant information for various medical fields was summarized. The literature search covered general information about handheld devices, the use of these devices to access medical literature, electronic pharmacopoeias, patient tracking, medical education, research, business management, e-prescribing, patient confidentiality, and costs as well as specialty-specific uses for personal digital assistants (PDAs).
The authors concluded that only a small number of articles provide evidence-based information about the use of PDAs in medicine. The majority of articles provide descriptive information, which is nevertheless of value. This article aims to increase the awareness among physicians about the potential roles for handheld computers in medicine and to encourage the further evaluation of their use.
The SARS outbreak in 2003 pushed Toronto's health care system to its limits. Staffing shortages, transmission of SARS within the ICU, and the influx of critically ill SARS patients were some unique challenges to the delivery of critical care. Communication strategies were a key component in the critical care response to SARS. Regular teleconference calls, web-based training and education, and the rapid coordination of research studies were some of the initiatives developed within the Toronto critical care community during the SARS outbreak. Other critical care communities should consider their communication strategies in advance of similar events.
communication; critical care; disease outbreaks; SARS
It has recently been shown that strategies aimed at preventing ventilator-induced lung injury, such as ventilating with low tidal volumes, can reduce mortality in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). High-frequency oscillatory ventilation (HFOV) seems ideally suited as a lung-protective strategy for these patients. HFOV provides both active inspiration and expiration at frequencies generally between 3 and 10 Hz in adults. The amount of gas that enters and exits the lung with each oscillation is frequently below the anatomic dead space. Despite this, gas exchange occurs and potential adverse effects of conventional ventilation, such as overdistension and the repetitive opening and closing of collapsed lung units, are arguably mitigated. Although many investigators have studied the merits of HFOV in neonates and in pediatric populations, evidence for its use in adults with ARDS is limited. A recent multicenter, randomized, controlled trial has shown that HFOV, when used early in ARDS, is at least equivalent to conventional ventilation and may have beneficial effects on mortality. The present article reviews the principles and practical aspects of HFOV, and the current evidence for its application in adults with ARDS.
acute lung injury; acute respiratory distress syndrome; high-frequency oscillatory ventilation; mechanical ventilation; ventilator-induced lung injury
To evaluate the feasibility of incorporating hand-held computing technology in a surgical residency program, by means of hand-held devices for surgical procedure logging linked through the Internet to a central database.
Division of General Surgery, University of Toronto.
A survey of general surgery residents.
The 69 residents in the general surgery training program received hand-held computers with preinstalled medical programs and a program designed for surgical procedure logging. Procedural data were uploaded via the Internet to a central database. Survey data were collected regarding previous computer use as well as previous procedure logging methods.
Main outcome measure
Utilization of the procedure logging system.
After a 5-month pilot period, 38% of surgical residents were using the procedure-logging program successfully and on a regular basis. Program use was higher among more junior trainees. Analysis of the database provided valuable information on individual trainees, hospital programs and supervising surgeons, data that would assist in program development.
Hand-held devices can be implemented in a large division of general surgery to provide a reference database and a procedure-logging platform. However, user acceptance is not uniform and continued training and support are necessary to increase acceptance. The procedure database provides important information for optimizing trainees’ educational experience.
Evidence from recent literature shows that protocol-directed extubation is a useful approach to liberate patients from mechanical ventilation (MV). However, research evidence does not necessarily provide guidance on how to implement changes in individual intensive care units (ICUs). We conducted the present study to determine whether such an evidence-based strategy can be implemented safely and effectively using a multidisciplinary team (MDT) approach.
We designed a MDT-driven extubation protocol. Multiple meetings were held to encourage constructive criticism of the design by attending physicians, nurses and respiratory care practitioners (RCPs), in order to define a protocol that was evidence based and acceptable to all clinical staff involved in the process of extubation. It was subsequently implemented and evaluated in our medical/ surgical ICU. Outcomes included response of the MDT to the initiative, duration of MV and stay in the ICU, as well as reintubation rate.
The MDT responded favourably to the design and implementation of this MDT-driven extubation protocol, because it provided greater autonomy to the staff. Outcomes reported in the literature and in the historical control group were compared with those in the protocol group, and indicated similar durations of MV and ICU stay, as well as reintubation rates. No adverse events were documented.
An MDT approach to protocol-directed extubation can be implemented safely and effectively in a multidisciplinary ICU. Such an effort is viewed favourably by the entire team and is useful in enhancing team building.
extubation protocol; mechanical ventilation; multidisciplinary team; spontaneous breathing trial; weaning
Venous thromboembolism (VTE) confers considerable morbidity and mortality in hospitalized patients, although few studies have focused on the critically ill population. The objective of this study was to understand current approaches to the prevention and diagnosis of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) among patients in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Mailed self-administered survey of ICU Directors in Canadian university affiliated hospitals.
Of 29 ICU Directors approached, 29 (100%) participated, representing 44 ICUs and 681 ICU beds across Canada. VTE prophylaxis is primarily determined by individual ICU clinicians (20/29, 69.0%) or with a hematology consultation for challenging patients (9/29, 31.0%). Decisions are usually made on a case-by-case basis (18/29, 62.1%) rather than by preprinted orders (5/29, 17.2%), institutional policies (6/29, 20.7%) or formal practice guidelines (2/29, 6.9%). Unfractionated heparin is the predominant VTE prophylactic strategy (29/29, 100.0%) whereas low molecular weight heparin is used less often, primarily for trauma and orthopedic patients. Use of pneumatic compression devices and thromboembolic stockings is variable. Systematic screening for DVT with lower limb ultrasound once or twice weekly was reported by some ICU Directors (7/29, 24.1%) for specific populations. Ultrasound is the most common diagnostic test for DVT; the reference standard of venography is rarely used. Spiral computed tomography chest scans and ventilation–perfusion scans are used more often than pulmonary angiograms for the diagnosis of PE. ICU Directors recommend further studies in the critically ill population to determine the test properties and risk:benefit ratio of VTE investigations, and the most cost-effective methods of prophylaxis in medical–surgical ICU patients.
Unfractionated subcutaneous heparin is the predominant VTE prophylaxis strategy for critically ill patients, although low molecular weight heparin is prescribed for trauma and orthopedic patients. DVT is most often diagnosed by lower limb ultrasound; however, several different tests are used to diagnose PE. Fundamental research in critically ill patients is needed to help make practice evidence-based.
critical care; deep venous thrombosis; diagnosis; intensive care unit; prevention; pulmonary embolism; thromboembolism
To determine the utility of routine chest radiographs (CXRs) in clinical decision-making in the intensive care unit (ICU).
A prospective evaluation of CXRs performed in the ICU for a period of 6 months. A questionnaire was completed for each CXR performed, addressing the indication for the radiograph, whether it changed the patient's management, and how it did so.
A 14-bed medical–surgical ICU in a university-affiliated, tertiary care hospital.
A total of 645 CXRs were analyzed in 97 medical patients and 205 CXRs were analyzed in 101 surgical patients.
Of the 645 CXRs performed in the medical patients, 127 (19.7%) led to one or more management changes. In the 66 surgical patients with an ICU stay <48 hours, 15.4% of routine CXRs changed management. In 35 surgical patients with an ICU stay ≥ 48 hours, 26% of the 100 routine films changed management. In both the medical and surgical patients, the majority of changes were related to an adjustment of a medical device.
Routine CXRs have some value in guiding management decisions in the ICU. Daily CXRs may not, however, be necessary for all patients.
chest radiograph; intensive care unit; quality assurance; routine radiography
Computing technology has the potential to improve health care management but is often underutilized. Handheld computers are versatile and relatively inexpensive, bringing the benefits of computers to the bedside. We evaluated the role of this technology for managing patient data and accessing medical reference information, in an academic intensive-care unit (ICU).
Palm III series handheld devices were given to the ICU team, each installed with medical reference information, schedules, and contact numbers. Users underwent a 1-hour training session introducing the hardware and software. Various patient data management applications were assessed during the study period. Qualitative assessment of the benefits, drawbacks, and suggestions was performed by an independent company, using focus groups. An objective comparison between a paper and electronic handheld textbook was achieved using clinical scenario tests.
During the 6-month study period, the 20 physicians and 6 paramedical staff who used the handheld devices found them convenient and functional but suggested more comprehensive training and improved search facilities. Comparison of the handheld computer with the conventional paper text revealed equivalence. Access to computerized patient information improved communication, particularly with regard to long-stay patients, but changes to the software and the process were suggested.
The introduction of this technology was well received despite differences in users' familiarity with the devices. Handheld computers have potential in the ICU, but systems need to be developed specifically for the critical-care environment.
computer communication networks; medical informatics; medical technology; microcomputers; point-of-care technology