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Characteristics of deaths in paediatric intensive care: a 10-year study

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Sands, R.; Manning, J. C.; Vyas, H.; Rashid, A.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the patient mortality over a 10-year period in a paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) including patient demographics, length of stay, cause and mode of death and to compare these findings with pre-existing literature from the western world. DESIGN: A retrospective chart review. SETTING: A UK tertiary PICU. PATIENTS: All children who died in the PICU over a 10-year period between 1 November 1997 and 31 October 2007 (n = 204). INTERVENTIONS: None. MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS: Data recorded for each patient included patient demographics, length of stay and cause of death according to the International Classification of Disease-10 classification, and mode of death. Mode of death was assigned for each patient by placement in one of four categories: (i) brain death (BD), (ii) managed withdrawal of life-sustaining medical therapy (MWLSMT), (iii) failed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and (iv) limitation of treatment (LT). Over the study period, findings showed a median length of stay of 2 days (IQR 0-5 days), with a mortality rate of 5%. The most common mode of death was MWLSMT (n = 112, 54.9%) and this was consistent across the 10-year period. Linear regression analysis demonstrated no significant change in trend over the 10 years in each of the modes of death; BD (p = 0.84), MWLSMT (p = 0.88), CPR (p = 0.35) and LT (p = 0.67). CONCLUSION: End-of-life care is an important facet of paediatric intensive nursing/medicine. Ten years on from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health publication ‘Withholding or withdrawing life sustaining treatment in children: A framework for practice’, this study found managed withdrawal of MWLSMT to be the most commonly practised mode of death in a tertiary PICU, and this was consistent over the study period.

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