The use of combined physiological parameters in the early recognition of the deteriorating acute medical patient

B H Cuthbertson, M Boroujerdi, G Prescott

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Background: Early warning scores (EWS) are widely used to allow early
recognition of the deteriorating patient. We aimed to test their ability to predict
major deterioration in medical patients.
Methods: Two cohorts were prospectively identified who were admitted to an
acute medical admissions unit and to the respiratory unit but not admitted to the
intensive care unit (ICU): medical-non ICU and respiratory-non ICU groups. Two
further cohorts were retrospectively identified that required ICU admission from
these units (medical-ICU and respiratory-ICU groups). Discriminant analysis and
receiver operating characteristic curves were used to discriminate between
groups, and time relationships were analysed.
Results: Heart rate (HR), respiratory rate (RR) and oxygen saturation (SaO2)
were significantly higher in the medical-ICU group than the medical-non ICU
group and significantly higher in the respiratory-ICU group than in the respiratory non ICU group. Discriminant functions incorporating HR, RR and SaO2 performed
at least as well as existing EWS systems in predicting ICU admission.
Conclusions: Commonly used physiological parameters and existing EWS
systems are useful at identifying sick patients. The discriminant functions described here appear to have a role in this setting but require validation in future studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-25
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2010



  • early warning scores
  • intensive care
  • medicine
  • risk prediction
  • scoring systems

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