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Resuscitation. 2008 Jun;77(3):325-30. doi: 10.1016/j.resuscitation.2008.01.009. Epub 2008 Mar 14.

Incidence, staff awareness and mortality of patients at risk on general wards.

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Danish Institute for Medical Simulation, Herlev Hospital, Capital Region of Copenhagen, Denmark.


The aim of this study was to estimate the incidence, staff awareness and subsequent mortality of patients with abnormal vital signs on general wards in a Danish university hospital.


Prospective data collection in two surgical and three medical wards at Herlev University Hospital, Copenhagen. Study personnel measured vital signs of all patients present on the wards at random points during the evening and interviewed nursing staff about patients with abnormal vital signs. Simplified medical emergency team (MET) calling criteria were used to define abnormal vital signs.




During the 2-month data collection period, 877 patients were included in the study and 155 (18%) had abnormal vital signs. The 30-day mortality in this group was 13% compared to 5% among patients with normal vital signs (p<0.0001). Of the 155 patients with abnormal signs, nursing staff were not aware of all of the patient's abnormalities in 67 (43%) cases. For 20 patients (13%), staff were aware of some of their abnormalities, while for 52 patients (34%), staff were aware of all their abnormalities.


One out of five patients in the general wards developed abnormal vital signs during the 2-month study period and these patients had a 3-fold increased 30-day mortality. For almost half of the patients, nursing staff were unaware of their abnormal vital signs. Strategies to improve identification of patients at risk should be an initial step in preventing serious adverse events on the general wards.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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