Acute Care Surgery| Volume 288, P71-78, August 2023

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Does Practice Match Training? Consultation Practices in Surgical Critical Care

Published:March 20, 2023DOI:



      Intensive care unit (ICU) patient and provider attributes may prompt specialty consultation. We sought to determine practice patterns of surgical critical care (SCC) physicians for ICU consultation.


      We surveyed American Association for the Surgery of Trauma members. Various diagnoses were listed under each of nine related specialties. Respondents were asked for which conditions they would consult a specialist. Conditions were cross-referenced with the SCC fellowship curriculum. Other perspectives on practice and consultation were queried.


      314 physicians (18.6%) responded (68% male; 79% White; 96.2% surgical intensivist); 284 (16.8%) completed all questions. Percentage of clinical time practicing SCC was 26-50% in 57% and >50% in 14.5%. ICUs were closed (39%), open (25%), or hybrid (36%). Highest average confidence ratings (1 = least, 5 = most) for managing select conditions were ventilator, 4.64; palliative care, 4.51; infections, 4.44; organ donation, hemodynamics (tie), 4.31; lowest rating was myocardial ischemia, 3.85. Consults were more frequent for Cardiology, Hematology, and Neurology; less frequent for nephrology, palliative care, gastroenterology, infectious disease, and pulmonary; and low for curriculum topics (<25%) except for infectious diseases and palliative care. Attending staffing 24 h/day was associated with a lower mean number of topics for consultation (mean 24.03 versus 26.31, P = 0.015).


      ICU consultation practices vary based on consultant specialty and patient diagnosis. Consultation is most common for specialty-specific diseases and specialist interventions, but uncommon for topics found in the SCC curriculum, suggesting that respondents’ scope of practice closely matched their training.


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