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End-of-life care in a pediatric intensive care unit: the impact of the development of a palliative care unit

Journal title
BMC palliative care
Publication year
Bobillo-Perez, S.; Segura, S.; Girona-Alarcon, M.; Felipe, A.; Balaguer, M.; Hernandez-Platero, L.; Sole-Ribalta, A.; Guitart, C.; Jordan, I.; Cambra, F. J.

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 In absolute numbers, respiratory support was the main type of support withdrawn.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.

Research abstracts