PURPOSE: Bereavement research has helped to improve end-of-life practices in the ICU. However, few studies have explored bereaved relatives experience of research participation in this context. We aimed to explore the experience of bereaved relatives' participation in the ARREVE study which included three telephone follow-up calls to complete several quantitative tools.
METHODS: Volunteer relatives who participated in the 12-month follow-up call completed a questionnaire about research participation that included ten open-ended questions so that respondents could use their own words and thoughts. These open-ended questions were analyzed using qualitative analysis that examines themes within the data.
RESULTS: 175/311 relatives completed the questionnaire. Three themes were derived from the thematic analysis: (1) struggling: reactivation of emotional distress associated with the ICU experience and the loss is frequent, specifically during the 1st follow-up call. (2) Resilience: as time goes by, research participation becomes increasingly positive. The calls are a help both in giving meaning to the relatives' experience and in accepting the loss. (3) Recognition: research calls can compensate for the absence of support during bereavement.
CONCLUSION: Although some emotional difficulties must be acknowledged, bereavement research is overall associated with benefits, by facilitating emotional adjustments, meaning-making and resilience. Lack of support and social isolation during bereavement are frequent experiences, revealing that support strategies for bereaved relatives should be developed after the loss of a loved one in the ICU.
BACKGROUND: Knowledge of the factors associated with the decision to withdraw or withhold life support (WWLS) in brain-injured patients is limited. However, most deaths in these patients may involve such a decision.
OBJECTIVES: To identify factors associated with the decision to WWLS in brain-injured patients requiring mechanical ventilation who survive the first 24 h in the ICU, and to analyse the outcomes and time to death.
SETTINGS: Twenty French ICUs in 18 university hospitals.
PATIENTS: A total of 793 mechanically ventilated brain-injured adult patients.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Decision to WWLS within 3 months of ICU admission, and death or Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) score at day 90.
RESULTS: A decision to WWLS was made in 171 patients (22%), of whom 89% were dead at day 90. Out of the 247 deaths recorded at day 90, 153 (62%) were observed after a decision to WWLS. The median time between admission and death when a decision to WWLS was made was 10 (5 to 20) days vs. 10 (5 to 26) days when no end-of-life decision was made (P < 0.924). Among the 18 patients with a decision to WWLS who were still alive at day 90, three patients (2%) had a GOS score of 2, nine patients (5%) had a GOS score of 3 and five patients (3%) a GOS score of 4. Older age, presence of one nonreactive and dilated pupil, Glasgow Coma Scale less than 7, barbiturate use, acute respiratory distress syndrome and worsening lesions on computed tomography scans were each independently associated with decisions to WWLS.
CONCLUSION: Using a nationwide cohort of brain-injured patients, we observed a high proportion of deaths associated with an end-of-life decision. Older age and several disease severity factors were associated with the decision to WWLS.
PURPOSE: The relative merits of immediate extubation versus terminal weaning for mechanical ventilation withdrawal are controversial, particularly regarding the experience of patients and relatives.
METHODS: This prospective observational multicentre study (ARREVE) was done in 43 French ICUs to compare terminal weaning and immediate extubation, as chosen by the ICU team. Terminal weaning was a gradual decrease in the amount of ventilatory assistance and immediate extubation was extubation without any previous decrease in ventilatory assistance. The primary outcome was posttraumatic stress symptoms (Impact of Event Scale Revised, IES-R) in relatives 3 months after the death. Secondary outcomes were complicated grief, anxiety, and depression symptoms in relatives; comfort of patients during the dying process; and job strain in staff.
RESULTS: We enrolled 212 (85.5%) relatives of 248 patients with terminal weaning and 190 relatives (90.5%) of 210 patients with immediate extubation. Immediate extubation was associated with airway obstruction and a higher mean Behavioural Pain Scale score compared to terminal weaning. In relatives, IES-R scores after 3 months were not significantly different between groups (31.9 ± 18.1 versus 30.5 ± 16.2, respectively; adjusted difference, -1.9; 95% confidence interval, -5.9 to 2.1; p = 0.36); neither were there any differences in complicated grief, anxiety, or depression scores. Assistant nurses had lower job strain scores in the immediate extubation group.
CONCLUSIONS: Compared to terminal weaning, immediate extubation was not associated with differences in psychological welfare of relatives when each method constituted standard practice in the ICU where it was applied. Patients had more airway obstruction and gasps with immediate extubation.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT01818895.