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Alarm fatigue develops when a person is exposed to an excessive number of alarms. This situation can result in sensory overload, which may cause the person to become desensitized to the alarms. Consequently, the response to alarms may be delayed, or alarms may be missed altogether.1
Although studies show it is difficult for humans to differentiate among more than 6 different alarm sounds,2,3 the average number of alarms in an ICU has increased from 6 in 1983 to more than 40 different alarms in 2011.4,5 Patient deaths have been attributed to alarm fatigue.6,7
In addition, 80% to 99% of electrocardiographic (ECG) monitor alarms are false or clinically insignificant.8-13 Several strategies for alarm management have been suggested to reduce alarm fatigue and improve patient safety.