Alarms in a neurocritical care unit: a prospective study

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Unal A., ARSAVA E. M., Caglar G., TOPÇUOĞLU M. A.

JOURNAL OF CLINICAL MONITORING AND COMPUTING, vol.36, no.4, pp.995-1001, 2022 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 36 Issue: 4
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s10877-021-00724-x
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Aerospace Database, CINAHL, Communication Abstracts, Compendex, EMBASE, MEDLINE, Metadex, Civil Engineering Abstracts
  • Page Numbers: pp.995-1001
  • Keywords: Neurointensive care, Alarm, False-negative, Prognosis, Specialty, Artificial intelligence, Alarm fatigue, FATIGUE, MONITORS
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: Yes


The contemporary practice of monitoring physiologic parameters in the critical care setting is based on alarm systems with high sensitivity but low specificity. A natural consequence of this approach is a massive amount of alarms, which potentially leads to fatigue in the personnel and negatively impacts the quality of care provided. The study objective is to determine the prevalence, types, and determinants of alarms in a neurological critical care unit (NCCU) prototype. During a one-month period corresponding to 272 days of monitoring in 34 patients, nursing staff recorded the type and number of sounding alarms in a university NCCU. Alarms were categorized into three types as type-A alarms that were merely handled by the nursing staff, type-B alarms that were primarily managed by nurses, but the physician was also notified, and type-C alarms that were principally handled by NCCU physicians. There were a total of 9439 alarms, with an average of daily 34.7 alarms per bed, corresponding to one alarm every 41.4 min. Most of the alarms were type-A (57.7%), followed by type-B (39.2%) and type-C (3.1%) alarms. Alarms originated from electrocardiogram (34.6%), pulse oximeter (33.7%), noninvasive blood pressure monitoring (9.8%), respiratory monitoring (9.7%), intravenous fluid pumps (4.5%), ventilator (3.9%), enteral pumps (2.1%) and invasive blood pressure systems (1.7%). A noticeable diurnal variation was observed for type-A pulse oximeter, type-A and -B ECG alarms (increase during morning shifts), and type-A ventilator alarms (decrease during morning shifts). Alarms are highly prevalent in NCCUs and can correspond to an important portion of the workload.