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1.  Relaunching the Pro–Con section at Critical Care 
Critical Care  2008;12(2):140.
doi:10.1186/cc6867
PMCID: PMC2447602
2.  Outcomes of interfacility critical care adult patient transport: a systematic review 
Critical Care  2005;10(1):R6.
Introduction
We aimed to determine the adverse events and important prognostic factors associated with interfacility transport of intubated and mechanically ventilated adult patients.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/cc3924
PMCID: PMC1550794  PMID: 16356212
3.  Clinical review: Mechanical ventilation in severe asthma 
Critical Care  2005;9(6):581-587.
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.
doi:10.1186/cc3733
PMCID: PMC1414026  PMID: 16356242
4.  Clinical review: SARS – lessons in disaster management 
Critical Care  2005;9(4):384-389.
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.
doi:10.1186/cc3041
PMCID: PMC1269424  PMID: 16137388
5.  Prospective evaluation of an internet-linked handheld computer critical care knowledge access system 
Critical Care  2004;8(6):R414-R421.
Introduction
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.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/cc2967
PMCID: PMC1065064  PMID: 15566586
clinical; computer; critical care; decision support systems; handheld; internet; point-of-care systems; practice guidelines; simulation
6.  Albumin in critical care: SAFE, but worth its salt? 
Critical Care  2004;8(5):297-299.
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.
doi:10.1186/cc2943
PMCID: PMC1065031  PMID: 15469582
albumins; colloids; critical care; crystalloids; fluid therapy
7.  Critical care procedure logging using handheld computers 
Critical Care  2004;8(5):R336-R342.
Introduction
We conducted this study to evaluate the feasibility of implementing an internet-linked handheld computer procedure logging system in a critical care training program.
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
doi:10.1186/cc2921
PMCID: PMC1065023  PMID: 15469577
critical care; handheld computers; internet; procedure logging; training program
8.  Communication in the Toronto critical care community: important lessons learned during SARS 
Critical Care  2003;7(6):405-406.
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.
PMCID: PMC374381  PMID: 14624673
communication; critical care; disease outbreaks; SARS
9.  Clinical review: High-frequency oscillatory ventilation in adults – a review of the literature and practical applications 
Critical Care  2003;7(5):385-390.
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.
doi:10.1186/cc2182
PMCID: PMC270711  PMID: 12974971
acute lung injury; acute respiratory distress syndrome; high-frequency oscillatory ventilation; mechanical ventilation; ventilator-induced lung injury
10.  Practising evidence-based medicine: the design and implementation of a multidisciplinary team-driven extubation protocol 
Critical Care  2001;5(6):349-354.
Background
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.
Method
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.
Results
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.
Conclusion
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.
PMCID: PMC83857  PMID: 11737924
extubation protocol; mechanical ventilation; multidisciplinary team; spontaneous breathing trial; weaning
11.  Prevention and diagnosis of venous thromboembolism in critically ill patients: a Canadian survey 
Critical Care  2001;5(6):336-342.
Background
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).
Design
Mailed self-administered survey of ICU Directors in Canadian university affiliated hospitals.
Results
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.
Interpretation
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.
PMCID: PMC83855  PMID: 11737922
critical care; deep venous thrombosis; diagnosis; intensive care unit; prevention; pulmonary embolism; thromboembolism
12.  Utility of routine chest radiographs in a medical–surgical intensive care unit: a quality assurance survey 
Critical Care  2001;5(5):271-275.
Objective
To determine the utility of routine chest radiographs (CXRs) in clinical decision-making in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Design
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.
Setting
A 14-bed medical–surgical ICU in a university-affiliated, tertiary care hospital.
Patients
A total of 645 CXRs were analyzed in 97 medical patients and 205 CXRs were analyzed in 101 surgical patients.
Results
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.
Conclusions
Routine CXRs have some value in guiding management decisions in the ICU. Daily CXRs may not, however, be necessary for all patients.
PMCID: PMC83854  PMID: 11737902
chest radiograph; intensive care unit; quality assurance; routine radiography
13.  Handheld computers in critical care 
Critical Care  2001;5(4):227-231.
Background
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).
Methods
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.
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
PMCID: PMC37409  PMID: 11511337
computer communication networks; medical informatics; medical technology; microcomputers; point-of-care technology

Results 1-13 (13)