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Effects of an external ventricular drain alert protocol on venticulostomy placement time in the emergency department

Henry Chang, Michael A. Silva, Alexander Giner, Selina Ancheta, José G. Romano, Ricardo Komotar, and Iahn Cajigas


Timely ventriculostomy placement is critical in the management of neurosurgical emergencies. Prompt external ventricular drain (EVD) placement has been shown to improve long-term patient outcomes and decrease the length of ICU and hospital stays. Successful and efficient EVD placement requires seamless coordination among multiple healthcare teams. In this study, the authors sought to identify factors favoring delayed ventriculostomy via a quality improvement initiative and to implement changes to expedite EVD placement.


Through process mapping, root cause analysis, and interviews with staff, the authors identified the lack of a standardized mechanism for alerting necessary healthcare teams as a major contributor to delays in EVD placement. In December 2019, an EVD alert system was developed to automatically initiate an EVD placement protocol and to alert the neurosurgery department, pharmacy, core laboratory, and nursing staff to prepare for EVD placement. The time to EVD placement was tracked prospectively using time stamps in the electronic medical record.


A total of 20 patients who underwent EVD placement between December 2019 and April 2021, during the EVD alert protocol initiation, and 18 preprotocol control patients (January 2018 to December 2019) met study inclusion criteria and were included in the analysis. The mean time to EVD placement in the control group was 71.88 minutes compared with 50.3 minutes in the EVD alert group (two-tailed t-test, p = 0.025). The median time to EVD placement was 64 minutes in the control group compared with 52 minutes in the EVD alert group (rank-sum test, p = 0.0184). All patients from each cohort exhibited behavior typical of stable processes, with no violation of Shewhart rules and no special cause variations on statistical process control charts.


A quality improvement framework helped identify sources of delays to EVD placement in the emergency department. An automated EVD alert system was a simple intervention that significantly reduced the time to EVD placement in the emergency department and can be easily implemented at other institutions to improve patient care.