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Visiting policies in Italian intensive care units: a national survey


Today no published data are as yet available on visiting policies in Italy's approximately 600 ICUs. We carried out a multicentre survey to evaluate visiting policies in Italian ICUs.


An email questionnaire was sent to all 303 ICUs (general and specialized) in the Italian collaborative Gruppo Italiano per la Valutazione degli Interventi in Terapia Intensiva, asking about their visiting policies.


The response rate was 84.8% (257/303). The median daily visiting time was 60 minutes (10th percentile: 30 minutes; 90th percentile: 120 minutes); however, 2% of ICUs allowed no visiting whatsoever. A total 54.8% of ICUs surveyed had only one daily visiting slot, and 44% two. Only 1.2% had more than two visiting slots. The number of visitors was restricted in 91.8% of ICUs. The type of visitors (immediate family only) was restricted in 17.5% of ICUs. Children were not permitted to visit in 69.1% of ICUs and 17.5% had a minimum age limit for visitors. In the case of a dying patient, 20.6% of ICUs did not alter the visiting policy; 49% extended visiting hours; 44% increased the number of slots; and 53% allowed more visitors. A gowning procedure was compulsory for visitors in 95.3% of ICUs. No waiting room was provided by 25.4% of ICUs.


This is the first survey on visiting policies in Italian ICUs. Despite the widely-held conviction that there is no sound scientific basis for restricting visitors in ICUs [13], our findings show a clear tendency in Italian ICUs to apply restricted visiting policies (concerning visiting hours, number and type of visitors), which are only partially liberalized when the patient is dying. Our survey could contribute towards modifying current policies in favour of opening ICUs that are still 'closed' and promoting more appropriate and attentive care for the patient and his/her family.


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We thank Gruppo Italiano per la Valutazione degli Interventi in Terapia Intensiva for their valuable help.

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Giannini, A., Leoncino, S. & Miccines, G. Visiting policies in Italian intensive care units: a national survey. Crit Care 11 (Suppl 2), P497 (2007).

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