Introduction : De nos jours 16 % des patients morts à l’hôpital décèdent aux urgences ou dans l’unité d’hospitalisation de courte durée. De fait, la décision de limitations et/ou d’arrêts des thérapeutiques actives (LATA) est souvent prise aux urgences. Les droits des malades concernant la fin de vie ont été renforcés en 2016 par la Loi Caeys-Leonetti. Notre étude a pour but d’évaluer les modalités et le contexte de la mise en place des LATA aux urgences du CHU d’Amiens afin de savoir si ces pratiques sont conformes aux recommandations et si le cadre réglementaire en est bien respecté.
Méthode : Il s’agit d’une étude observationnelle rétrospective descriptive au sein du service des urgences du CHU d’Amiens du 01 avril 2015 au 30 juin 2019. Ont été inclus les dossiers des patients ayant consulté aux urgences et pour lesquels un questionnaire de mise en place de LATA a été rempli.
Résultats : Cinq cent trois dossiers au total ont été inclus. La quasi-totalité des dossiers (99,8 %) comportaient le nom du médecin référent. De même, les décisions de LATA étaient prises de manière collégiale avec au moins un autre médecin dans la majorité des dossiers (93,2 %). En revanche, la personne de confiance n’était mentionnée que dans deux tiers des dossiers (67,3 %) et l’équipe paramédicale n’était mentionnée que dans un tiers des dossiers (34,1 %).
Conclusion : La mise en place d’un questionnaire relatif aux LATA dans le dossier médical favorise une prise en charge collégiale aux urgences. Ces décisions restent perfectibles, les 2 principaux points d’amélioration sont l’identification et l’information de la personne de confiance ainsi que la traçabilité de la consultation de l’équipe paramédicale dans les dossiers.
Background: Decisions to limit treatment (DLTs) are important to protect patients from overtreatment but constitute one of the most ethically challenging situations in oncology practice. In the Ethics Policy for Advance Care Planning and Limiting Treatment study (EPAL), we examined how often DLT preceded a patient’s death and how early they were determined before (T1) and after (T2) the implementation of an intrainstitutional ethics policy on DLT.
Methods: This prospective quantitative study recruited 1.134 patients with haematological/oncological neoplasia in a period of 2×6 months at the University Hospital of Munich, Germany. Information on admissions, discharges, diagnosis, age, DLT, date and place of death, and time span between the initial determination of a DLT and the death of a patient was recorded using a standardised form.
Results: Overall, for 21% (n=236) of the 1.134 patients, a DLT was made. After implementation of the policy, the proportion decreased (26% T1/16% T2). However, the decisions were more comprehensive, including more often the combination of ‘Do not resuscitate’ and ‘no intense care unit’ (44% T1/64% T2). The median time between the determination of a DLT and the patient’s death was similarly short with 6 days at a regular ward (each T1/T2) and 10.5/9 (T1/T2) days at a palliative care unit. For patients with solid tumours, the DLTs were made earlier at both regular and palliative care units than for the deceased with haematological neoplasia.
Conclusion: Our results show that an ethics policy on DLT could sensitise for treatment limitations in terms of frequency and extension but had no significant impact on timing of DLT. Since patients with haematological malignancies tend to undergo intensive therapy more often during their last days than patients with solid tumours, special attention needs to be paid to this group. To support timely discussions, we recommend the concept of advance care planning.
BACKGROUND: Treatment limitation decisions (TLDs) on the ICU can be challenging, especially in patients with a malignancy. Up-to-date literature regarding TLDs in critically ill patients with a malignancy admitted to the ICU is scarce. The aim was to compare the incidence of written TLDs between patients with an active malignancy, patients with a malignancy in their medical history (complete remission, CR) and patients without a malignancy admitted unplanned to the ICU.
METHODS: We conducted a retrospective cohort study in a large university hospital in the Netherlands. We identified all unplanned admissions to the ICU in 2017 and categorized the patients in 3 groups: patients with an active malignancy (study population), with CR and without a malignancy. A TLD was defined as a written instruction not to perform life-saving treatments, such as CPR in case of cardiac arrest. A multivariate binary logistic regression analysis was used to identify whether having a malignancy was associated with TLDs.
RESULTS: Of the 1046 unplanned admissions, 125 patients (12%) had an active malignancy and 76 (7.3%) patients had CR. The incidence of written TLDs in these subgroups were 37 (29.6%) and 20 (26.3%). Age (OR 1.03; 95% CI 1.01 -1.04), SOFA score at ICU admission (OR 1.11; 95% CI 1.05 -1.18) and having an active malignancy (OR 1.75; 95% CI 1.04-2.96) compared to no malignancy were independently associated with written TLDs. SOFA scores on the day of the TLD were not significantly different in patients with and without a malignancy.
CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that the presence of an underlying malignancy is independently associated with written TLDs during ICU stay. Patients with CR were not at risk of more written TLDs. Whether this higher incidence of TLDs in patients with a malignancy is justified, is at least questionable and should be evaluated in future research.
Objectif : Cette étude vise à développer des axes de réflexion concernant la fin de vie et ainsi mieux comprendre les facteurs éthique et émotionnel en jeu dans la prise de décision chez le médecin travaillant en soins palliatifs et plus particulièrement dans une situation où il est question d’une limitation et/ou arrêt de traitement (LAT).
Méthode: La réflexion éthique et le vécu émotionnel de 10 médecins, exerçant en services ou en équipes mobiles de soins palliatifs dans la région Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, ont été évalués par auto-questionnaire.
Résultats: Dans un contexte de prise de décision de LAT, les médecins ont estimé que la réflexion éthique a un impact sur leur prise de décision dans leur pratique professionnelle en général mais également dans leur dernière situation de LAT. Les résultats diffèrent concernant le vécu émotionnel, 80 % des médecins ont pensé que le vécu émotionnel jouait un rôle dans leur pratique professionnelle générale. En revanche, 70 % des médecins considèrent que leur vécu émotionnel n’a pas influencé la prise de décision lorsqu’ils sont interrogés plus spécifiquement sur la dernière situation clinique où il était question d’une LAT.
Conclusion : Les médecins considèrent que la réflexion éthique est bien présente et semble indispensable pour garder, au centre de la décision, le patient dans son unicité. Au vu des résultats, la prise de décision de LAT semble faire ressentir des émotions fortes à ces médecins qui paraissent difficilement identifiables et exprimables.
Les soins palliatifs demandent de plus en plus de compétences médicales, soignantes, humaines et éthiques, afin d’asseoir leur légitimité dans des domaines de plus en plus pointus de la médecine – réanimation, néonatalogie, cancérologie, gériatrie – ainsi que dans la diversité des prises en charge, y compris au domicile ou en EPHAD.
Dans ce contexte de développement des formations et d’élargissement des champs de compétences de la pratique palliative, cette 5e édition du manuel offre :
-les indispensables connaissances thérapeutiques ;
-les outils, à destination des professionnels en vue d’acquérir une compétence clinique pour la rencontre et l’accompagnement humain, psychique et relationnelle de la personne malade ;
-une contextualisation de la pratique des soins palliatifs dans leur dimension sociale, sanitaire et politique ;
-des jalons pédagogiques pour le développement des soins palliatifs dans leur dimension pédagogique et de recherche.
Background: The purpose of this paper is to describe how end-of-life care is managed when life-support limitation is decided in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit and to analyze the influence of the further development of the Palliative Care Unit.
Methods: A 15-year retrospective study of children who died after life-support limitation was initiated in a pediatric intensive care unit. Patients were divided into two groups, pre- and post-palliative care unit development. Epidemiological and clinical data, the decision-making process, and the approach were analyzed. Data was obtained from patient medical records.
Results: One hundred seventy-five patients were included. The main reason for admission was respiratory failure (86/175). A previous pathology was present in 152 patients (61/152 were neurological issues). The medical team and family participated together in the decision-making in 145 cases (82.8%). The family made the request in 10 cases (9 vs. 1, p = 0.019). Withdrawal was the main life-support limitation (113/175), followed by withholding life-sustaining treatments (37/175). Withdrawal was more frequent in the post-palliative group (57.4% vs. 74.3%, p = 0.031). In absolute numbers, respiratory support was the main type of support withdrawn.
Conclusions: The main cause of life-support limitation was the unfavourable evolution of the underlying pathology. Families were involved in the decision-making process in a high percentage of the cases. The development of the Palliative Care Unit changed life-support limitation in our unit, with differences detected in the type of patient and in the strategy used. Increased confidence among intensivists when providing end-of-life care, and the availability of a Palliative Care Unit may contribute to improvements in the quality of end-of-life care.
Background: Data are scarce on the withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies and limitation of care orders (LCOs) during physician-staffed Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) missions. We investigated LCOs and the quality of information available when physicians made treatment decisions in prehospital care.
Methods: A prospective, nationwide, multicentre study including all Finnish physician-staffed HEMS bases during a six-month study period. All HEMS missions where a patient had pre-existing LCOs and/or a new LCO were included.
Results: There were 335 missions with LCOs, which represented 5.7% of all HEMS missions (n=5,895). There were 181 missions with pre-existing LCOs, and a total of 170 new LCOs were issued. Usually, the pre-existing LCO was a do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation order only (n=133, 74%). The most frequent new LCO was ‘termination of cardiopulmonary resuscitation’ only (n=61, 36%), while ‘no intensive care’ combined with some other LCO was almost as common (n=54, 32%). When issuing a new LCO for patients who did not have any preceding LCOs (n=153), in every other (49%) case the physicians thought that the patient should have already had an LCO. When the physician made treatment decisions, patients’ background information from on-scene paramedics was available in 260 (78%) of the LCO missions, while patients’ medical records were available in 67 (20%) of the missions.
Conclusion: Making LCOs or treating patients with pre-existing LCOs is an integral part of HEMS physicians’ work, with every twentieth mission involving LCO patients. The new LCOs mostly concerned withholding or withdrawal of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and intensive care.
Le développement exponentiel de nouvelles techniques dans le domaine médical s’applique aussi aux patients en fin de vie, opérant un changement dans les mentalités. La fréquence et la manière de mourir des enfants se sont modifiées tout comme la représentation que l’on s’en fait. L’objectif de notre étude était d’évaluer les enjeux et la représentation de la mort du nouveau-né et de l’enfant dans la société française contemporaine ainsi que les déterminants socioculturels pouvant les conditionner.
La question de la décision médicale en néonatologie est complexe : en raison de de la place particulière qu’ont les parents vis-à-vis du nouveau-né. Elle présente un dilemme souvent discuté dans la littérature. Ce témoignage vise à donner des arguments en faveur de la position selon laquelle, dans les décisions médicales de fin de vie, ce sont les parents qui doivent: les parents doivent pouvoir, s’ils le souhaitent, porter la responsabilité de la décision.
There is a concern that as a result of COVID-19 there will be a shortage of ventilators for patients requiring respiratory support. This concern has resulted in significant debate about whether it is appropriate to withdraw ventilation from one patient in order to provide it to another patient who may benefit more. The current advice available to doctors appears to be inconsistent, with some suggesting withdrawal of treatment is more serious than withholding, while others suggest that this distinction should not be made. We argue that there is no ethically relevant difference between withdrawing and withholding treatment and that suggesting otherwise may have problematic consequences. If doctors are discouraged from withdrawing treatment, concern about a future shortage may make them reluctant to provide ventilation to patients who are unlikely to have a successful outcome. This may result in underutilisation of available resources. A national policy is urgently required to provide doctors with guidance about how patients should be prioritised to ensure the maximum benefit is derived from limited resources.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its sequelae have created scenarios of scarce medical resources, leading to the prospect that healthcare systems have faced or will face difficult decisions about triage, allocation and reallocation. These decisions should be guided by ethical principles and values, should not be made before crisis standards have been declared by authorities, and, in most cases, will not be made by bedside clinicians. Do not attempt resuscitation (DNAR) and withholding and withdrawing decisions should be made according to standard determination of medical appropriateness and futility, but there are unique considerations during a pandemic. Transparent and clear communication is crucial, coupled with dedication to provide the best possible care to patients, including palliative care. As medical knowledge about COVID-19 grows, more will be known about prognostic factors that can guide these difficult decisions.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether parent-initiated or doctor-initiated decisions about limiting life-sustaining treatment (LST) in neonatal care has consequences for how possible courses of action are presented.
METHOD: Formal conversations (n = 27) between doctors and parents of critically ill babies from two level 3 neonatal intensive care units were audio or video recorded. Sequences of talk where decisions about limiting LST were presented were analysed using Conversation Analysis and coded using a Conversation Analytic informed coding framework. Relationships between codes were analysed using Fisher's exact test.
RESULTS: When parents initiated the decision point, doctors subsequently tended to refer to or list available options. When doctors initiated, they tended to use 'recommendations' or 'single-option' choice (conditional) formats (p=0.017) that did not include multiple treatment options. Parent initiations overwhelmingly concerned withdrawal, as opposed to withholding of LST (p=0.030).
CONCLUSION: Aligning parents to the trajectory of the news about their baby's poor condition may influence how the doctor subsequently presents the decision to limit LST, and thereby the extent to which parents are invited to participate in shared decision-making.
PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Explicitly proposing treatment options may provide parents with opportunities to be involved in decisions for their critically ill babies, thereby fostering shared decision-making.
BACKGROUND: Since the introduction of the concept of advance care planning (ACP), many studies have been conducted exploring beneficial effects. These studies show a heterogeneity in clinical endpoints, which reflects diversity of goals connected to ACP. This study aims to get insight in the range of underlying goals that comprise the legitimacy of ACP.
METHODS: Systematic literature search in PubMed, EMBASE, PsychInfo, CINAHL and Cochrane Library. Articles on normative aspects of ACP were included, based on title and abstract. Due to the quantity of inclusions, of which many had similar content, purposive sampling was used to select articles for full text document analysis. Analysis stopped once saturation was reached.
RESULTS: In total, 6497 unique articles were found of which 183 were included. Saturation was reached after document analysis of 55 articles (30%); this yielded 141 codes concerning goals of ACP and also 70 codes about objections against ACP, which shed light on the underlying goals of ACP as well. We identified five underlying goals: respecting individual patient autonomy, improving quality of care, strengthening relationships, preparing for end-of-life, reducing overtreatment.
CONCLUSIONS: Five distinctive underlying goals of ACP were identified, each with corresponding objections that need to be considered. Specifying underlying goals of ACP may direct the debate on definitions, methods and preferred outcomes of ACP. This study was funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Health Research and Development, grant 839120002.
In this issue of JAMA, Lee and colleagues examine the association between Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST), which involve portable medical orders that document treatment limitations for out-of-hospital emergency care and for limiting overtreatment at the end of life. The authors studied adults with chronic life-limiting illnesses who were hospitalized within the last 6 months of life and who had completed a POLST before their last inpatient admission. Among 1818 patients enrolled, 656 (36%) had POLST orders for “full treatment” and 1162 had orders for either “limited additional interventions” (761 [42%]) or “comfort measures only” (401 [22%]). Among the combined latter 2 groups, 472 (41%) were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), 436 (38%) received POLST-discordant intensive care, and 204 (18%) received POLST-discordant life-sustaining treatments, defined as mechanical ventilation, vasoactive infusions, new renal replacement therapy, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Patients with cancer or dementia were less likely to receive POLST-discordant intensive care, whereas patients hospitalized for traumatic injuries were more likely to receive POLST-discordant intensive care. These results are sobering.
[Début de l'article]
Importance: Patients with chronic illness frequently use Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) to document treatment limitations.
Objectives: To evaluate the association between POLST order for medical interventions and intensive care unit (ICU) admission for patients hospitalized near the end of life.
Design, Setting, and Participants: Retrospective cohort study of patients with POLSTs and with chronic illness who died between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2017, and were hospitalized 6 months or less before death in a 2-hospital academic health care system.
Exposures: POLST order for medical interventions (“comfort measures only” vs “limited additional interventions” vs “full treatment”), age, race/ethnicity, education, days from POLST completion to admission, histories of cancer or dementia, and admission for traumatic injury.
Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was the association between POLST order and ICU admission during the last hospitalization of life; the secondary outcome was receipt of a composite of 4 life-sustaining treatments: mechanical ventilation, vasopressors, dialysis, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. For evaluating factors associated with POLST-discordant care, the outcome was ICU admission contrary to POLST order for medical interventions during the last hospitalization of life.
Results: Among 1818 decedents (mean age, 70.8 [SD, 14.7] years; 41% women), 401 (22%) had POLST orders for comfort measures only, 761 (42%) had orders for limited additional interventions, and 656 (36%) had orders for full treatment. ICU admissions occurred in 31% (95% CI, 26%-35%) of patients with comfort-only orders, 46% (95% CI, 42%-49%) with limited-interventions orders, and 62% (95% CI, 58%-66%) with full-treatment orders. One or more life-sustaining treatments were delivered to 14% (95% CI, 11%-17%) of patients with comfort-only orders and to 20% (95% CI, 17%-23%) of patients with limited-interventions orders. Compared with patients with full-treatment POLSTs, those with comfort-only and limited-interventions orders were significantly less likely to receive ICU admission (comfort only: 123/401 [31%] vs 406/656 [62%], aRR, 0.53 [95% CI, 0.45-0.62]; limited interventions: 349/761 [46%] vs 406/656 [62%], aRR, 0.79 [95% CI, 0.71-0.87]). Across patients with comfort-only and limited-interventions POLSTs, 38% (95% CI, 35%-40%) received POLST-discordant care. Patients with cancer were significantly less likely to receive POLST-discordant care than those without cancer (comfort only: 41/181 [23%] vs 80/220 [36%], aRR, 0.60 [95% CI, 0.43-0.85]; limited interventions: 100/321 [31%] vs 215/440 [49%], aRR, 0.63 [95% CI, 0.51-0.78]). Patients with dementia and comfort-only orders were significantly less likely to receive POLST-discordant care than those without dementia (23/111 [21%] vs 98/290 [34%], aRR, 0.44 [95% CI, 0.29-0.67]). Patients admitted for traumatic injury were significantly more likely to receive POLST-discordant care (comfort only: 29/64 [45%] vs 92/337 [27%], aRR, 1.52 [95% CI, 1.08-2.14]; limited interventions: 51/91 [56%] vs 264/670 [39%], aRR, 1.36 [95% CI, 1.09-1.68]). In patients with limited-interventions orders, older age was significantly associated with less POLST-discordant care (aRR, 0.93 per 10 years [95% CI, 0.88-1.00]).
Conclusions and Relevance: Among patients with POLSTs and with chronic life-limiting illness who were hospitalized within 6 months of death, treatment-limiting POLSTs were significantly associated with lower rates of ICU admission compared with full-treatment POLSTs. However, 38% of patients with treatment-limiting POLSTs received intensive care that was potentially discordant with their POLST.
BACKGROUND: Advanced care planning through Physician Order For Life-Sustaining Therapies (POLST) has been encouraged by professional societies. But these documents may be overlooked or ignored during hospitalization and "full-code" orders written as a default, putting patients at risk for unwanted resuscitation. After 2 instances of unwanted resuscitation in which limited support POLSTs were ignored, a series of improvements were implemented. This study measured the effectiveness of those steps in reducing POLST code status discrepancy.
METHODS: Pre-post implementation chart review of randomly chosen medical admissions to determine the rate of discordance between POLST orders (when present) and admission code status orders. Physician Order For Life-Sustaining Therapies were classified as either "full" or "limited" based on orders for life-sustaining therapies on the form. Chi-square tests or Fisher exact tests were performed on binary data to identify statistically significant differences at the 95% confidence level between pre- and postimplementation admissions.
RESULTS: In all, 444 preimplementation and 448 postimplementation admissions were evaluated. Discrepant code status orders for those with limited POLST fell from 10 (22.7%) of 44 preimplementation to 3 (4.6%) of 65 after implementation, P = .006. The number of documented code status discussions in admission notes increased from 19.6% to 63.6% (P < .001). The median age of all POLST in the chart was 1.2 years.
CONCLUSIONS: Among those patients with limited POLST orders, discrepant full-code orders increase the potential for unwanted resuscitation. Multistep improvements including documentation templates improved the process of verifying end-of-life wishes and increased meaningful code status discussions. The rate of discrepant orders fell in response to process improvements.
Aim: To examine paediatric deaths following withdrawal or withholding of medical treatment (WWMT) from a hospital-wide perspective and identify changes over a 10 year period.
Methods: A retrospective review of medical records was conducted for all paediatric inpatient deaths at the Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne from April 2015 to April 2016, and results were compared to 2007 data from our centre. 2 tests were used for comparisons.
Results: A total of 101 deaths occurred in the inpatient setting in 2015–2016. Most deaths followed WWMT (88/101, 87%) and occurred in children with pre-existing chronic conditions (85/101, 85%). There was a shift to earlier discussions with parents regarding WWMT compared to 10 years prior. Cases where discussions began prior to the last admission increased from 4 to 19% (P = 0.004). There was increased paediatric palliative care (PPC) involvement (10 vs. 37%, P < 0.001), and a slightly greater proportion of children died outside of intensive care (16 vs. 22%, P = 0.25). In 2015–2016, subgroup analysis showed that children who died as inpatients but outside of intensive care were 76% more likely to have PPC involved than those who died in intensive care (P < 0.001). Their families were 51% more likely to have discussed WWMT with medical staff before the last admission (P < 0.001).
Conclusions: The last decade has seen an increase in PPC involvement and advance discussions around WWMT at our centre. Both of these are associated with death outside of intensive care.
Background: Periprocedural providers are encountering more patients with code status limitations (CSLs) regarding their preferences for resuscitation and life-sustaining treatment who choose to undergo palliative procedures. Surgical and anesthesia guidelines for preprocedural reconsideration of CSLs have been available for several years, but it is not known whether they are being followed in practice.
Objective: We assessed compliance with existing guidelines for patients undergoing venting gastrostomy tube (VGT) for malignant bowel obstruction (MBO), serving as an example of a palliative procedure received by patients near the end of life.
Design: Code status was determined at admission and throughout the hospitalization by chart review. Documentation of code status discussions (CSDs) was identified from provider notes and compared with existing guidelines.
Setting/subjects: An institutional database retrospectively identified patients who underwent VGT placement for MBO at two academic hospitals (2014-2015).
Measurements: We identified 53 patients who underwent VGT placement for MBO. Interventional radiologists performed 88% of these procedures. Other periprocedural providers involved in these cases included surgeons, gastroenterologists, anesthesiologists, and sedation nurses.
Results: CSLs were documented before the procedure in only 43% of cases, and a documented CSD with a periprocedural provider was identified in only 22% of CSL cases. Of all VGT placements performed in patients with CSLs before the procedure, only 13% were compliant with the guidelines of preprocedural reconsideration of CSLs.
Conclusions: Increased compliance with guidelines published by the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the American College of Surgeons, and the Association of Perioperative Registered Nurses is necessary to ensure goal-concordant care of patients with CSLs who undergo a procedure. Efforts should be made to incorporate these guidelines into the training of all periprocedural providers.
PURPOSE: There have been few studies on the limitation of Life Supporting Care (LSC) and Withdrawal of LSC in Intermediate Care Units (IMCUs). We report the prevalence of LSC limited patients in a medico-surgical IMCU over a six-month period, examining the description, outcomes, and patterns of LSC Limitations and Withdrawal of LSC.
METHODS: Single center, retrospective observational study in an IMCU of a 500-bed general hospital.
RESULTS: Our study of 404 patients, reported 79 (19.5%, 95%CI: [16.0-23.7]%) being admitted with LSC limitations in the IMCU. This group of LSC limited patients presented with higher chronic and acute severity scores. The most common admission diagnosis of LSC limited patients was acute respiratory failure (51%). Non-invasive ventilation (NIV) was frequently used within this population (39%). Hospital mortality for LSC limited patients was high (53%) and associated with age (OR = 1.07, 95%CI: [1.01-1.13)]), SOFA score (OR 1.29, 95%CI: [1.01-1.64]), and hypoxemic respiratory failure (OR 7.2, 95%CI: [1.27-40.9]). Withdrawal of LSC occurred in 19.5% of cases, often accompanied with terminal sedation with or without NIV removal (43.8%).
CONCLUSIONS: Patients with limitation of LSC are frequently admitted into IMCU. Hospital mortality rate was high and associated with age, acute organ failures, and hypoxemic respiratory failure. Life support withdrawal includes palliative sedation with or without NIV discontinuation.
OBJECTIVE: Treatment limitation, as well as do-not-resuscitate (DNR) directives, are difficult but important to improve patients' quality of life and minimize dysthanasia. We aimed to study the approach to withholding, withdrawal, and DNR decisions, patients' characteristics, and process documentation in a general Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in Portugal.
METHODS: A retrospective analysis of data regarding the limitation of treatment decisions collected from previously-designed forms and complemented by medical record consultation.
RESULTS: A total of 1602 patients were admitted to the ICU between 2011 and 2016. DNR decisions were documented in 127 cases (7.9%). Patients with treatment limitations were older and had higher Simplified Acute Physiology Score II. The most frequent diagnosis preceding these decisions was sepsis (52.0%, n = 66); the most common main reason for limiting treatment was a poor prognosis of acute illness. Of the patients to whom a DNR was implemented, 117 (92.1%) died in the ICU (40.1% of the total number of ICU deaths), and hospital mortality was 100%. Participants in these decisions, as well as types of treatment withdrawn and their respective timings, were not registered in medical records.
CONCLUSION: Treatment limitation and DNR decisions were relatively common, in line with other Southern European studies, but behind Northern European and North American centers. Patients with these limitations were older and more severely ill than patients without such decisions. Documentation of these processes should be clear and detailed, either in specific forms or computerized clinical records; there is room for improvement in this area.