Objective: The use of pulmonary artery catheter (PAC) is controversial. The purpose of this study was to document the changing pattern of PAC use and to determine its effect on outcome. Methods: The use of PAC was analyzed in patients 16 years old admitted to the surgical intensive care unit (SICU) over a 9-year period starting in 2000. Patients with SICU length of stay exceeding 30 days were excluded. For the evaluation of PAC's effect on outcome, PAC and no-PAC patients were matched utilizing propensity scores. Results: During the 9-year study period, a total of 5,192 trauma patients were admitted to the SICU. Of these, 426 (8.2%) were <16 years old, and 174 (3.4%) had a SICU length of stay that exceeded 30 days. For the remaining 4,592 patients, the mean ± SD age was 39.5 ± 18.8 years, and the mean ISS was 19.9 ± 12.4. PAC was utilized in 19.5% (n = 896) of all the patients admitted to the SICU. The trend for PAC use decreased significantly over the years (P value for trend <0.001), from 38.6% in the year 2000 to 4.2% in the year 2008. This decrease was noted in all age and injury severity groups of patients. The overall mortality, however, remained at the same levels (P value for trend = 0.111). Patients managed with a PAC were significantly older, more severely injured, more frequently injured by a blunt mechanism, and were admitted more often in a hypotensive or comatose status. In the early part of the study, the PAC was utilized on the first day and for 4.1 days on average. In the later part of the study, however, the PAC was used on the second day and for a shorter period of time (3 days on average, P < 0.001). In the matched study population, patients in the PAC group had almost twofold higher odds for death, when compared to the no-PAC group [34.2% vs. 22.5%, Odds Ratio (95% CI): 1.78 (1.42, 2.26), P < 0.001]. Patients younger than 50 years of age who had an ISS 16 had worse outcome when managed with a PAC, whereas patients aged 30-69 years with an ISS <16 had a higher survival. The overall complication rate was fivefold higher in patients receiving a PAC [46.3% vs. 14.2%, Odds Ratio (95% CI): 5.22 (4.04, 6.74), P < 0.001]. Conclusion: The use of PAC has decreased almost 10-fold over the last decade at our institution. The PAC is being used later during the ICU course and for a shorter period of time. In a matched population, the use of PAC is associated with a significantly higher mortality and complication rate, but the reason for this association remains uncertain. The use of PAC is invasive and is associated with known complications and financial costs. While the use of PAC maybe useful in a select population, routine and widespread use of the PAC should be avoided.
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