Important Anniversary Calls Attention to the 33,000 Preventable Deaths in U.S. ICUs

In honor of Drew Hughes’ death, 19 organizations have joined forces to launch a national awareness campaign

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#0X2020–This June 29 marks the sixth anniversary of Drew Hughes’ death –– the 13-year-old who lost his life when his life-sustaining breathing tube was unintentionally removed. His tragic death and patient safety event –– known as unplanned extubation –– inspired a movement, and this month a coalition of 19 medical professional societies, patient safety and quality improvement organizations are working together to raise awareness about unplanned extubation (UE) and increase prevention efforts by getting hospitals on board with tracking and implementing quality measures. The goal is to get hospitals to commit to supporting this effort.

Unplanned extubation is the unplanned, uncontrolled removal of a patient’s life-sustaining breathing tube. There are more than 121,000 unplanned extubation events among adults annually in U.S. intensive care units alone, which are associated with:

  • 33,000 preventable deaths every year
  • 36,000 cases of ventilator-associated pneumonia
  • $4.9 billion in unnecessary healthcare costs
  • 2x the ICU length of stay
  • $41,000 additional cost per unplanned extubation

“Though research and literature clearly points to UE as a common and costly issue, it is not being addressed for the grave risk it presents to patients,” said Dr. Art Kanowitz, co-chair of the SAM Special Projects II Committee and founder of the Airway Safety Movement. “As part of the ‘Campaign to Zero,’ we’re working to raise awareness and get patient safety and quality improvement managers to make UE a key performance measure and deploy the quality measures and processes that are appropriate for improving a key performance measure. But it’s not just patient safety managers, it is going to require the commitment of multiple stakeholders –– healthcare executives, providers, patients and patient advocates, and electronic health record (EHR) companies. This is a call to action to those groups to become champions of UE best practices.”

In 2018, the Coalition for Unplanned Extubation Awareness and Prevention approved the Patient Safety Movement Foundations’ Actionable Patient Safety Solutions (APSS) #8B as a guide for creating and sustaining safe practices for unplanned extubation in medical facilities. The APSS #8B includes checklists, leadership, action and technology plans, protocols, as well as a core data set to track and reduce UE incidents.

Now, the Coalition is calling on patient safety and quality improvement departments to track intubated patient data; providers to become cheerleaders of UE best practices and data tracking; healthcare executives to provide the resources to allow quality improvement and safety officers to eliminate UE-related deaths; and EHR companies to add the unplanned extubation core data set to their software.

To get involved with the “Campaign to Zero” or Airway Safety Movement, visit

About Airway Safety Movement

Airway Safety Movement was founded by Dr. Art Kanowitz in 2018 to educate and eliminate complications related to airway management, including failed intubation, ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP), tube mal-positioning and unplanned extubation, unrecognized esophageal intubation and pressure ischemia. The nonprofit is working to create a comprehensive and sustainable system for reliability in airway management in healthcare settings using standardized best practices, policies and procedures, tracking tools, and quality improvement processes. For more information, visit


Morgan O’Crotty | 602.410.3553

Beth Cochran | 602.758.0750

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