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Mass Critical Care: Pediatric Considerations in Extending and Rationing Care in Public Health Emergencies

  • Robert K. Kanter and Arthur Cooper


This article applies developing concepts of mass critical care (MCC) to children. In public health emergencies (PHEs), MCC would improve population outcomes by providing lifesaving interventions while delaying less urgent care. If needs exceed resources despite MCC, then rationing would allocate interventions to those most likely to survive with care. Gaps between estimated needs and actual hospital resources are worse for children than adults. Clear identification of pediatric hospitals would facilitate distribution of children according to PHE needs, but all hospitals must prepare to treat some children. Keeping children with a family member and identifying unaccompanied children complicate PHE regional triage. Pediatric critical care experts would teach and supervise supplemental providers. Adapting nearly equivalent equipment compensates for shortages, but there is no substitute for age-appropriate resuscitation masks, IV/suction catheters, endotracheal/gastric/chest tubes. Limitations will be encountered using adult ventilators for infants. Temporary manual bag valve ventilation and development of shared ventilators may prolong survival until the arrival of ventilator stockpiles. To ration MCC to children most likely to survive, the Pediatric Index of Mortality 2 score meets the criteria for validated pediatric mortality predictions. Policymakers must define population outcome goals in regard to lives saved versus life-years saved. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2009;3(Suppl 2):S166–S171)


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Robert K. Kanter, MD, Department of Pediatrics, SUNY Upstate Medical University, 750 E Adams St, Syracuse, NY 13210(e-mail:


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Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
  • ISSN: 1935-7893
  • EISSN: 1938-744X
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