Key messages

• Outcomes can be measured in terms of mortality, morbidity, disability, functional health status, and quality of life.

• The outcome of intensive care depends on the inputs available (e.g. equipment, staff), the processes of care (e.g. type of care, skill and timing with which care is administered), and also on the case mix of the patients treated.

• The proposed role of scoring systems has been based on the quantification of case mix and the development of mathematical equations to estimate probabilities of outcome for intensive care patients.

• The roles of scoring systems in intensive care can be divided into three main areas: comparative audit, evaluative research, and the clinical management of individual patients.

• The limitations of scoring systems can be categorized into four main areas: limitations in their application, limitations of the data, limitations of their accuracy, and finally limitations arising from interpretation of their results.

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