The association of laboratory test abnormalities with mortality risk in pediatric intensive care

Murray M. Pollack, James M. Chamberlain, Anita K. Patel, Julia A. Heneghan, Eduardo A.Trujillo Rivera, Dongkyu Kim, James E. Bost

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To determine the bivariable associations between abnormalities of 28 common laboratory tests and hospital mortality and determine how mortality risks changes when the ranges are evaluated in the context of commonly used laboratory test panels. Design: A 2009-2016 cohort from the Health Facts (Cerner Corporation, Kansas City, MO) database. Setting: Hospitals caring for children in ICUs. Patients: Children cared for in ICUs with laboratory data. Interventions: None. Measurements and Main Results: There were 2,987,515 laboratory measurements in 71,563 children. The distribution of laboratory test values in 10 groups defined by population percentiles demonstrated the midrange of tests was within the normal range except for those measured predominantly when significant abnormalities are suspected. Logistic regression analysis at the patient level combined the population-based groups into ranges with nonoverlapping mortality odds ratios. The most deviant test ranges associated with increased mortality risk (mortality odds ratios > 5.0) included variables associated with acidosis, coagulation abnormalities and blood loss, immune function, liver function, nutritional status, and the basic metabolic profile. The test ranges most associated with survival included normal values for chloride, pH, and bicarbonate/total Co2. When the significant test ranges from bivariable analyses were combined in commonly used test panels, they generally remained significant but were reduced as risk was distributed among the tests. CONCLUSIONS: The relative importance of laboratory test ranges vary widely, with some ranges strongly associated with mortality and others strongly associated with survival. When evaluated in the context of test panels rather than isolated tests, the mortality odds ratios for the test ranges decreased but generally remained significant as risk was distributed among the components of the test panels. These data are useful to develop critical values for children in ICUs, to identify risk factors previously underappreciated, for education and training, and for future risk score development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-160
Number of pages14
JournalPediatric Critical Care Medicine
StateAccepted/In press - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. All rights reserved.


  • intensive care
  • laboratory tests
  • pediatric intensive care unit
  • pediatrics
  • severity of illness


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