Pediatric cardiac intensive care distribution, service delivery, and staffing in the United States in 2018

Robin V. Horak*, Peta M. Alexander, Rambod Amirnovin, Margaret J. Klein, Ronald A. Bronicki, Barry P. Markovitz, Mary E. McBride, Adrienne G. Randolph, Ravi R. Thiagarajan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Objectives: To assess the distribution, service delivery, and staffing of pediatric cardiac intensive care in the United States. Design: Based on a 2016 national PICU survey, and verified through online searching and clinician networking, medical centers were identified with a separate cardiac ICU or mixed ICU. These centers were sent a structured web-based survey up to four times, with follow-up by mail and phone for nonresponders. Setting: Cardiac ICUs were defined as specialized units, specifically for the treatment of children with life-threatening primary cardiac conditions. Mixed ICUs were defined as separate units, specifically for the treatment of children with life-threatening conditions, including primary cardiac disease. Participants: Cardiac ICU or mixed ICU physician medical directors or designees. Measurements and Main Results: One-hundred twenty ICUs were identified: 61 (51%) were mixed ICUs and 59 (49%) were cardiac ICUs. Seventy five percent of institutions at least sometimes used a neonatal ICU prior to surgery. The most common temporary cardiac support beyond extracorporeal membrane oxygenation was a centrifugal pump such as Centrimag. Durable cardiac support devices were far more common in separate cardiac ICUs (84% vs 20%; p < 0.0001). Significantly less availability of electrophysiology, heart failure, and cardiac anesthesia consultation was available in mixed ICUs (p = 0.0003, p < 0.0001, p = 0.042 respectively). ICU attending physicians were in-house day and night 98% of the time in mixed ICUs and 87% of the time in cardiac ICUs. Nurse practitioners were consistent front-line providers in the ICUs caring for children with primary cardiac disease staffing 88% of cardiac ICUs and 56% of mixed ICUs. Mixed ICUs were more commonly staffed with pediatric residents, and critical care fellows were found in more cardiac ICUs (83% vs 77%; p < 0.0001). Conclusions: Mixed ICUs and cardiac ICUs have statistically different staffing models and available services. More evaluation is needed to understand how this may impact patient outcomes and training programs of physicians and nurses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)797-803
Number of pages7
JournalPediatric Critical Care Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2020


  • advanced practice nursing
  • congenital heart disease
  • critical care
  • extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
  • heart-assist devices
  • intensive care units

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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