OBJECTIVE: To assess the impact of intercenter variation and patient factors on end-of-life care practices for infants who die in regional neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).
STUDY DESIGN: We conducted a retrospective cohort analysis using the Children's Hospital Neonatal Database during 2010-2016. A total of 6299 nonsurviving infants cared for in 32 participating regional NICUs were included to examine intercenter variation and the effects of gestational age, race, and cause of death on 3 end-of-life care practices: do not attempt resuscitation orders (DNR), cardiopulmonary resuscitation within 6 hours of death (CPR), and withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies (WLST). Factors associated with these practices were used to develop a multivariable equation.
RESULTS: Dying infants in the cohort underwent DNR (55%), CPR (21%), and WLST (73%). Gestational age, cause of death, and race were significantly and differently associated with each practice: younger gestational age (<28 weeks) was associated with CPR (OR 1.7, 95% CI 1.5-2.1) but not with DNR or WLST, and central nervous system injury was associated with DNR (1.6, 1.3-1.9) and WLST (4.8, 3.7-6.2). Black race was associated with decreased odds of WLST (0.7, 0.6-0.8). Between centers, practices varied widely at different gestational ages, race, and causes of death.
CONCLUSIONS: From the available data on end-of-life care practices for regional NICU patients, variability appears to be either individualized or without consistency.