• Implementation of an Arterial Blood Gas Indication Algorithm in Cardiac Surgery

      Wanzer, Megan B.; Wilson, Tracey L. (2021-05)
      Problem: The overutilization of laboratory testing was identified as a national problem by the “Choosing Wisely” campaign, advocating for judicious use of testing in intensive care units (ICUs). Arterial blood gasses (ABGs) account for an estimated 10-20% of all costs during an ICU stay. Non-clinically indicated ABGs increased costs of care, length of stays, ventilator days, and line days, increasing the risk of adverse outcomes to already vulnerable critically ill patients. A cardiac surgery intensive care unit (CSICU) within a large urban mid-Atlantic academic medical center accounted for 31% of the entire institution’s ABG analyses between 2018-2019, and was identified as a top utilizer due to inappropriate ordering practices as compared to current guidelines. Purpose: The purpose of this quality improvement project was to implement an algorithm based upon evidence-based guidelines that identified appropriate standardized clinical indications for ABGs, with the intention of reducing non-clinically indicated blood gas analyses orders within the CSICU. Anticipated outcomes of this practice change included decreasing the total volume of ABGs sent, resulting in reduced costs of care, lengths of stay, and improved morbidity and mortality rates. Methods: An evidence-based ABG indication algorithm was created focusing on acute changes in oxygenation, ventilation, acid base balance; changes in hemodynamics, post-operative baseline, and for patient ABGs to correlate with extra-corporeal membranous oxygenation values. Routine ABGs for monitoring were eliminated. Implementation occurred over fourteen-weeks in the fall of 2020 following staff and provider education. Training emphasized the use of non-invasive monitoring such as pulse-oximetry and capnography. Compliance and gross laboratory totals and indications were obtained from weekly auditing. Results: There was an 8.8% reduction in ABGs sent and 32% decrease in ABGs per patient day. The most common indications were extra-corporeal membranous oxygenation (ECMO)-correlated ABGs, post-operative, and changes in oxygenation and/or ventilation; 7.8% were non-indicated. Conclusions: Implementation of an ABG indication algorithm resulted in fewer ABGs sent, mostly due to a reduction in routine monitoring, and ABGs were more likely to be clinically indicated in response to an acute concern. Implementing an ABG indication algorithm is safe, feasible, and can lead to significant cost reductions for the institution.