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Cost and Outcome of Intensive Care for Patients With AIDS, Pneumocystis carinii Pneumonia, and Severe Respiratory Failure

Robert M. Wachter, MD; John M. Luce, MD; Sharon Safrin, MD; Daniel C. Berrios, MD, MPH; Edwin Charlebois, MPH; Anne A. Scitovsky, MA
JAMA. 1995;273(3):230-235. doi:10.1001/jama.1995.03520270064033.
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Objective.  —To determine the costs and outcomes associated with intensive care unit (ICU) admission for patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)—related Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), and severe respiratory failure.

Design.  —Survival and cost-effectiveness analysis.

Setting.  —A large municipal teaching hospital serving an indigent population.

Patients.  —Consecutive patients intubated and mechanically ventilated for AIDS, PCP, and respiratory failure from 1981 through 1991 (n=113). The cohort was separated into three groups for analysis: patients admitted to the ICU in 1981 through 1985 (era I, n=43), those admitted in 1986 through 1988 (era II, n=33), and those admitted in 1989 through 1991 (era III, n=37).

Main Outcome Measures.  —Hospital charges and survival time; cost per year of life saved, using a zero-cost, zero-life assumption.

Results.  —Twenty-eight (25%) of the 113 patients mechanically ventilated for PCP and respiratory failure survived to hospital discharge: six (14%) of 43 in era I,13 (39%) of 33 in era II, and nine (24%) of 37 in era III (P=.04). Post-ICU admission charges averaged $57 874 for the entire cohort, remaining relatively stable across the three eras. Cost of care for survivors was significantly more expensive than for those dying before discharge. The cost of ICU admission and subsequent hospitalization averaged $174 781 per year of life saved; $305 795 in era I, $94 528 in era II, and $215 233 in era III. Improved survival rates and shorter lengths of ICU stay led to the improved cost-effectiveness in era II, while the opposite trends resulted in worsening cost-effectiveness in recent years. The strongest predictors of hospital mortality in era III were low CD4 cell counts on hospital admission and the development of pneumothorax during mechanical ventilation.

Conclusions.  —The cost-effectiveness of intensive care for patients with PCP and severe respiratory failure improved during the first 8 years of the AIDS epidemic but fell in recent years such that it is now below that of many accepted medical interventions.(JAMA. 1995;273:230-235)

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