To compare the outcomes (mortality and ICU length of stay) of patients with direct admissions to the PICU from the emergency department [ED]) versus as an escalation of care from the floor.


A retrospective cohort study with a secondary analysis of registry data. Patient demographics and outcome variables collected from January 1, 2015, to December 31, 2019, were obtained from the Virtual Pediatric Systems database. Patients with a source of admission other than the hospital’s ED or pediatric floor were excluded. Multivariable regression analysis controlling for age groups, sex, race, diagnostic categories, and severity of illness (Pediatric Index of Mortality III), with clustering for sites, was performed.


A total of 209 695 patients from 121 sites were included in the analysis. A total of 154 716 (73.7%) were admitted directly from the ED, and 54 979 were admitted (26.2%) as an escalation of care from the floor. Two groups differed in age and race distribution, medical complexity, diagnostic categories, and severity of illness. After controlling for measured confounders, patients with floor escalations had higher mortality (2.78% vs 1.95%; P < .001), with an odds ratio of 1.71 (95% CI 1.5 to 1.9) and longer PICU length of stay (4.9 vs 3.6 days; P < .001). The rates of most of the common ICU procedures and their durations were also significantly higher in patients with an escalation of care.


Compared with direct admissions to the PICU from the ED, patients who were initially triaged to the pediatric floor and then require escalation to the PICU have worse outcomes. Further research is needed to explore the potential causes of this difference.

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