The Joint Commission’s 2009 National Patient Safety Goals aimed to improve identification of and response to clinical deterioration in hospital-ward patients. Some hospitals implemented intermediate-care units for patients without intensive care–level support needs. No studies have evaluated what effect changes associated with a move to a pediatric cardiovascular step-down unit (CVSDU) has on process-of-care outcomes.


A retrospective cohort study comparing process-of-care outcomes in units caring for children with congenital heart disease (n = 1415) 1 year before (July 1, 2010–June 30, 2011) and 1 year after (August 1, 2011–July 30, 2012) implementation of a CVSDU following the move to a new hospital building. Units caring for noncardiac tracheostomy and/or ventilator-dependent patients were used as controls (n = 606). Primary outcomes included length of stay (LOS) and transfers to higher levels of care. Secondary outcomes included rapid response team, cardiopulmonary arrest, and code blue rates. Mann-Whitney U and z tests were used for all analyses.


When compared with a medical-surgical unit, cardiac patients admitted to a CVSDU had a significantly decreased total LOS (median 7.0 vs 5.4 days, P = .03), non-ICU LOS (median 3.5 vs 3.0 days, P = .006), and rapid response team/code blue rate per 1000 non-ICU patient days (11.2 vs 7.0, P = .04). No significant differences in primary or secondary outcomes were seen within the control group.


Changes associated with a new CVSDU were associated with decreased LOS and lower rates of rapid response and code blue events for patients with congenital heart disease.

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