Patients may face increased mortality if they are discharged from the intensive care unit (ICU) earlier or later than a determined optimal time frame, according to a recent article in the American Journal of Critical Care.

The study, which was coauthored by an expert at Cleveland-based essential hospital MetroHealth, examined prospective data covering August 2002 to March 2007 (excluding March to May 2004) from MetroHealth Medical Center’s 13-bed ICU. The ICU had no existing protocol to determine when a patient should be transferred from the ICU.

The data indicated an optimal time frame for releasing a patient from the ICU, with 30-day mortality increasing if the patient was released earlier or later. However, the study also suggested that clinical judgment is not reliable for determining the optimal time window.

According to the authors, the findings indicate that patient transfer decisions should consider factors in addition to ICU bed utilization. They noted that more studies are needed to identify evidence-based methods of determining when patients should be transferred from the ICU.