Time to stop checking for vital signs in the night?

The health of many hospital patients might improve if nurses stop performing overnight vital-sign checks on them, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

There's little evidence that supports the long-standing practice of collecting vital signs every four hours, the report notes. Although they can indicate "impending clinical deterioration," the study states, it also disrupts sleep, which can elevate blood pressure and cause other problems.

"Everybody is reflexively getting woken up twice a night for vital signs, regardless of how high-risk they are," study author Dana Edelson, M.D., said, according to U.S. News and World Report's Health Day.

The study, which included 54,096 people, suggests using track and trigger systems instead, such as the Modified Early Warning Score (MEWS), which is used for identifying patients who may need critical interventions. 

In the study, the adverse event rate increased with higher evening-time MEWS, but the frequency of vital sign disruption was unchanged. Nearly half of all nighttime vital sign disruptions occurred in patients with one MEW or less. The conclusions suggest that frequency of nighttime vital sign monitoring should be reduced, helping improve patient sleep.

To learn more:
- read the study
- here's the HealthDay article