Treatment limitations at admission to intensive care units in Australia and New Zealand: Prevalence, outcomes, and resource use

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Previous studies have addressed patients in whom treatment is withheld or withdrawn after a period of intensive care unit management. However, no studies have investigated the epidemiology of patients with treatment limitations in place at the time of intensive care unit admission. Objective: To report the epidemiology and outcome of patients with treatment limitations at intensive care unit admission and to identify characteristics associated with survival and discharge to home. Design: Retrospective database study using data from the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Adult Patient Database. Setting: Australian and New Zealand intensive care units. Patients: One hundred eighty-seven thousand four hundred and one intensive care patients collected over a 3-yr period, 5,989 (3.2 ) of whom had treatment limitations at admission to the intensive care unit. Interventions: Retrospective database study with no interventions. Data collected included patient characteristics, length of stay, mortality, and discharge destination. Mean intensive care unit bed days were used as a surrogate for resource consumption. Measurements and Main Results: Between January 1, 2007, and December 31, 2009, 5,989 (3.2 ) patients were reported to the Australia and New Zealand Intensive Care Society Adult Patient Database who had treatment limitation orders at admission to intensive care unit. Mortality was 53 (95 confidence interval 51.7 -54.3 ) compared with 9 (95 confidence interval 8.9 -9.1 ) in patients admitted for full active management (p = .001). Overall, 30 of patients with treatment limitations were discharged directly to their homes. Intensive care unit bed day usage was similar between the two groups. Within the treatment limitation group, younger patients, those with less comorbid diseases, less acute physiological disturbance, and those admitted following elective surgery, were more likely to survive and be discharged home. Admission diagnosis was an important determinant of outcome with intracranial or subarachnoid hemorrhage predicting a extremely high mortality. Conclusions: Patients with treatment limitations on intensive care unit admission comprise approximately 2,000 patients per year in Australia and New Zealand. Despite such limitations, almost half of these patients survive their hospital admission and a third return directly to their home
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2082 - 2089
Number of pages8
JournalCritical Care Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Cite this