Prolonged intubation after cardiac surgery increases the risk of morbidity and mortality and lengthens hospital stays. Factors that influence the ability to extubate patients with speed and efficiency include the operation, the patient’s baseline physiological condition, workflow processes, and provider practice patterns.

Local Problem

Progression to extubation lacked consistency and coordination across the team. The purpose of the project was to engage interprofessional stakeholders to reduce intubation times after cardiac surgery by implementing fast-track extubation and redesigned care processes.


This staged implementation study used the Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control approach to quality improvement. Barriers to extubation were identified and reduced through care redesign. A protocol-driven approach to extubation was also developed for the cardiothoracic intensive care unit. The team was engaged with clear goals and given progress updates.


In the preimplementation cohort, early extubation was achieved in 48 of 101 patients (47.5%) who were designated for early extubation on admission to the cardiothoracic intensive care unit. Following implementation of a fast-track extubation protocol and improved care processes, 153 of 211 patients (72.5%) were extubated within 6 hours after cardiac surgery. Reintubation rate, length of stay, and 30-day mortality did not differ between cohorts.


The number of early extubations following cardiac surgery was successfully increased. Faster progression to extubation did not increase risk of reintubation or other adverse events. Using a framework that integrated personal, social, and environmental influences helped increase the impact of this project.

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