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Curr Infect Dis Rep. 2004 Jun;6(3):228-233.

SARS in the Intensive Care Unit.

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  • 1Department of Anesthesia and Intensive Care, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China.


Approximately 20% of patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) develop respiratory failure that requires admission to an intensive care unit (ICU). Old age, comorbidity, and elevated lactate dehydrogenase on hospital admission are associated with increased risk for ICU admission. ICU admission usually is late and occurs 8 to 10 days after symptom onset. Acute respiratory distress syndrome occurs in almost all admitted patients and most require mechanical ventilation. ICU admission is associated with significant morbidity, particularly an apparent increase in the incidence of barotrauma and nosocomial sepsis. Long-term mortality for patients admitted to the ICU ranges from 30% to 50%. Many procedures in ICUs pose a high risk for transmission of SARS coronavirus to health care workers. Contact and airborne infection isolation precautions, in addition to standard precautions, should be applied when caring for patients with SARS. Ensuring staff safety is important to maintain staff morale and delivery of adequate services.

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