Objective: To determine whether potential exposure to natural light via windows or to more pleasing views through windows affects outcomes or costs among critically ill patients.
Design: Retrospective cohort study.
Setting: An academic hospital in Philadelphia, PA.
Patients: Six thousand one hundred thirty-eight patients admitted to a 24-bed medical ICU and 6,631 patients admitted to a 24-bed surgical ICU from July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2010.
Interventions: Assignment to medical ICU rooms with vs. without windows and to surgical ICU rooms with natural vs. industrial views based on bed availability.
Measurements and Main Results: In primary analyses adjusting for patient characteristics, medical ICU patients admitted to rooms with (n = 4,093) versus without (n = 2,243) windows did not differ in rates of ICU (p = 0.25) or in-hospital (p = 0.94) mortality, ICU readmissions (p = 0.37), or delirium (p = 0.56). Surgical ICU patients admitted to rooms with natural (n = 3,072) versus industrial (n = 3,588) views experienced slightly shorter ICU lengths of stay and slightly lower variable costs. Instrumental variable analyses based on initial bed assignment and exposure time did not show any differences in any outcomes in either the medical ICU or surgical ICU cohorts, and none of the differences noted in primary analyses remained statistically significant when adjusting for multiple comparisons. In a prespecified subgroup analysis among patients with ICU length of stay greater than 72 hours, MICU windows were associated with reduced ICU (p = 0.02) and hospital mortality (p = 0.04); these results did not meet criteria for significance after adjustment for multiple comparisons.
Conclusions: ICU rooms with windows or natural views do not improve outcomes or reduce costs of in-hospital care for general populations of medical and surgical ICU patients. Future work is needed to determine whether targeting light from windows directly toward patients influences outcomes and to explore these effects in patients at high risk for adverse outcomes.