Fast tracking in cardiac surgery: is it safe?

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of cardiothoracic surgery

MeSH Headings

Airway Extubation; Cardiac Surgical Procedures (adverse effects); Coronary Artery Bypass; Humans; Length of Stay; Postoperative Complications (epidemiology, etiology); Retrospective Studies


BACKGROUND: While fast track clinical pathways have been demonstrated to reduce resource utilization in patients undergoing cardiac surgery, it remains unclear as to whether they adversely affect post-operative outcomes. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of fast tracking on post-operative outcomes following cardiac surgery. METHODS: In a retrospective study, all patients undergoing first-time, on-pump, non-emergent coronary artery bypass grafting, valve, or coronary artery bypass grafting + valve at a single centre between 2010 and 2017 were included. Patients were considered to have been fast tracked if they were extubated and transferred from intensive care to a step-down unit on the same day as their procedure. The risk-adjusted effect of fast tracking on a 30-day composite of all-cause mortality, stroke, renal failure, infection, atrial fibrillation, and readmission to hospital was determined. Furthermore, propensity score matching was used to match fasting track patients in a 1-to-1 manner with their nearest "neighbor" in the control group and subsequently compared in terms of 30-day post-operative outcomes. RESULTS: 3252 patients formed the final study population (fast track: n = 245; control: n = 3007). Patients who were fast tracked experienced reduced time to initial extubation (4.3 vs. 5.6 h, p < 0.0001) and lower median initial intensive care unit length of stay (7.8 vs. 20.4 h, p < 0.0001). Fast tracked patients experienced lower 30-day rates of the composite outcome (42.4% vs. 51.5%, p = 0.008). However, following propensity score matching, fast tracked patients experienced similar 30-day rates of the composite outcome as the control group (42.4% vs. 44.5%, p = 0.72). After risk adjustment using multivariable regression modeling, fast tracking was predictive of an improved 30-day composite outcome (OR 0.75, 95% CI 0.57-0.98, p = 0.03). CONCLUSION: Fast track clinical pathways was associated with reduced intensive care unit, overall length of stay and similar 30-day post-operative outcomes. These results suggest that fast tracking appropriate patients may reduce resource utilization, while maintaining patient safety.

First Page