Vital Signs Are Still Vital: Instability on Discharge and the Risk of Post-Discharge Adverse Outcomes

Oanh Kieu Nguyen, Anil N. Makam, Christopher Clark, Song Zhang, Bin Xie, Ferdinand Velasco, Ruben Amarasingham, Ethan A. Halm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Background: Vital sign instability on discharge could be a clinically objective means of assessing readiness and safety for discharge; however, the association between vital sign instability on discharge and post-hospital outcomes is unclear. Objective: To assess the association between vital sign instability at hospital discharge and post-discharge adverse outcomes. Design: Multi-center observational cohort study using electronic health record data. Abnormalities in temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation were assessed within 24 hours of discharge. We used logistic regression adjusted for predictors of 30-day death and readmission. Participants: Adults (≥18 years) with a hospitalization to any medicine service in 2009–2010 at six hospitals (safety-net, community, teaching, and non-teaching) in north Texas. Main Measures: Death or non-elective readmission within 30 days after discharge. Key Results: Of 32,835 individuals, 18.7 % were discharged with one or more vital sign instabilities. Overall, 12.8 % of individuals with no instabilities on discharge died or were readmitted, compared to 16.9 % with one instability, 21.2 % with two instabilities, and 26.0 % with three or more instabilities (p < 0.001). The presence of any (≥1) instability was associated with higher risk-adjusted odds of either death or readmission (AOR 1.36, 95 % CI 1.26–1.48), and was more strongly associated with death (AOR 2.31, 95 % CI 1.91–2.79). Individuals with three or more instabilities had nearly fourfold increased odds of death (AOR 3.91, 95 % CI 1.69–9.06) and increased odds of 30-day readmission (AOR 1.36, 95 % 0.81–2.30) compared to individuals with no instabilities. Having two or more vital sign instabilities at discharge had a positive predictive value of 22 % and positive likelihood ratio of 1.8 for 30-day death or readmission. Conclusions: Vital sign instability on discharge is associated with increased risk-adjusted rates of 30-day mortality and readmission. These simple vital sign criteria could be used to assess safety for discharge, and to reduce 30-day mortality and readmissions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)42-48
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of general internal medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


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