Researchers warn that smaller people may inadvertently be overdosed with drugs, as they do not need as much medication as those of average height. But the death rates are higher for shorter people even when their age and the severity of their illness are taken into account.
Experts say shorter people may be at risk because a lot of intensive care equipment is set up for average-sized male patients. Dr Hannah Wunsch, who led the study into 210 intensive care units in the UK, said: ‘There is no one thing which could explain this increase in mortality in shorter people admitted to intensive care. Researchers looked at death rates for patients from 2009 to 2015 based on their height.
The wrong sized breathing tube could cause damage to the vocal cords in shorter people, the research found. Patients in intensive care are more likely to die in hospital if they are short.
Most people in intensive care tend to have medical complications such as sepsis and heart failure, although the unit also has a smaller proportion of accident and car crash victims. ‘There are so many aspects to how people are looked after which could contribute but together all these small things may have a large impact. Tall people have much better survival rates when they are very ill, a study of more than 400,000 British patients found.