Accuracy of height and weight estimation by critical care staff
© Dunne and Hickey; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2012
Published: 20 March 2012
Patient's height and weight measurements are used regularly within the critical care setting whether for calculation of drug doses, nutritional intake, ventilator settings or calibration of cardiac output monitoring . In sedated patients these parameters are often obtained via estimation by critical care staff. Errors in these estimations have the potential to cause harm either from errors in drug calculations , inappropriate ventilatory settings or underfeeding or overfeeding.
We asked members of the critical care team (medical, nursing staff, physiotherapists and dieticians) to anonymously estimate the heights and weights of patients within the unit at that time. Following this we obtained accurate measurements by measuring height with a measuring tape and patients' weight with the Scotweigh weighing machine. The results were then collated and the percentage inaccuracy of estimate compared to actual measurement was calculated.
Although height estimation was measured to within 10% accuracy in the majority of cases, staff were considerably less reliable at estimating an accurate patient weight and on more than one-half of all estimates underestimated the weight by greater than 10%. We therefore strongly discourage the practice of weight estimation in situations where clinical decisions are being based on an often unreliable value, and alternative means of obtaining an accurate weight measurement should be sought.
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