Prevalence, goals of care and long-term outcomes of patients with life-limiting illness referred to a tertiary ICU

Neil R Orford, Sharyn L Milnes, Nigel Lambert, Laura Berkeley, Stephen E. Lane, Nicholas Simpson, Tania Elderkin, Allison Bone, Peter Martin, Charlie Corke, Rinaldo Bellomo, Michael Bailey

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Objective: To describe the prevalence, characteristics, long-term outcomes and goals-of-care discussions of patients with objective indicators of life-limiting illnesses (LLIs) referred to the intensive care unit. Design, setting and patients: A prospective, observational, cohort study of all adult inpatients referred to the ICU by the medical emergency team or by direct referral, during the period 30 August 2012 to 1 February 2013, at a tertiary teaching hospital in Australia. Main outcome measures: Mortality, LLIs, discharge destination and documentation on goals of care in medical record. Results: A total of 649 of 1024 patients referred to the ICU had an LLI, and only 34.4% of these patients had goals of care documented. Overall, 49.2% were admitted to the ICU, 48.4% were discharged home, and the 1-year mortality was 35.1%. The most common LLI criteria were heart disease (52.2%), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (24.8%) and frailty (23.7%). The highest 1-year mortality was associated with pre-hospital residence in a nursing home (64.9%), dementia (63.3%), cancer (60.8%) and frailty (50.6%). Analysis of patients by clinical trajectory showed that 1-year mortality was significantly higher for patients with cancer (59.6%), combined organ failure and frailty (47.3%), frailty (43.8%) and organ failure (23.6%), compared with patients with no LLI (P < 0.0001). Conclusions: A high proportion of patients referred to the ICU have an LLI, and this is associated with prolonged hospital length of stay and a high 1-year mortality, and only one-quarter have documented discussions on goals of care. Patients with cancer-related and frailty-related LLIs have the worst survival trajectories.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-188
Number of pages8
JournalCritical Care and Resuscitation
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016

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