A system factors analysis of airway events from the Intensive Care Unit Safety Reporting System (ICUSRS)

Dale M. Needham, David A. Thompson, Christine G. Holzmueller, Todd Dorman, Lisa H. Lubomski, Albert W. Wu, Laura L. Morlock, Peter J. Pronovost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Objective: To evaluate the contributing and limiting factors for airway events reported in the Intensive Care Unit Safety Reporting System (ICUSRS) developed in partnership with the Society of Critical Care Medicine. Design: Analysis of system factors in airway vs. nonairway events reported to a voluntary, anonymous, Web-based patient safety reporting system (the ICUSRS). Setting: Sixteen adult and two pediatric intensive care units (ICU) across the United States. Patients: Incidents reported during the 12-month period ending June 30, 2003. Interventions: None Measurements: Descriptive characteristics of incidents (defined as events that could have, or did, cause harm), patients, and patient harm; separate multivariable logistic regression analyses of contributing and limiting factors for airway vs. nonairway events. Main Results: There were 78 airway and 763 nonairway events reported. More than half of airway events were considered preventable. One patient death was attributed to an airway event. Physical injury, increased hospital length of stay, and family dissatisfaction occurred in at least 20% of airway events. Important factors contributing to reported airway events (odds ratio (OR), 95% confidence interval (CI)) included patients' medical condition (5.24, 3.07-8.95) and age <1 yr old (4.15, 1.79-9.59). Factors limiting the impact of airway events (OR, 95% CI) included adequate ICU staffing (3.60, 1.71-7.56) and use of skilled assistants (3.20, 1.62-6.32). Conclusions: Patients are harmed by unintended and preventable incidents involving airway management. Prevention efforts should focus on critically ill infants and patients with complex medical conditions. Managers should ensure appropriate ICU staffing to limit the impact of airway events when they occur.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2227-2233
Number of pages7
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2004


  • Critical care
  • Critical illness
  • Intensive care units
  • Internet
  • Medical errors
  • Outcome assessment
  • Risk management
  • Safety management
  • Sentinel surveillance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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