This paper by Kruser and colleagues was published in the November issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology and Physics.
Purpose: To inform goals of care discussions at the time of palliative radiation therapy (RT) consultation, we sought to characterize intensive care unit (ICU) outcomes for patients treated with palliative RT compared to all other patients with metastatic cancer admitted to the ICU.
Methods and materials: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of patients with metastatic cancer admitted to an ICU in a tertiary medical centre from January 2010 to September 2015. We compared in-hospital mortality between patients who received palliative RT in the 12 months before admission and all other patients with metastatic cancer. We used multivariable logistic regression to evaluate the association between receipt of palliative RT and in-hospital mortality, adjusting for patient characteristics and acute illness severity.
Results: Among 1424 patients with metastatic cancer, 11.3% (n=161) received palliative RT before ICU admission. In-hospital mortality was 36.7% for palliative RT patients, compared with 16.6% for other patients with metastatic cancer (P<.001). Receipt of palliative RT was associated with increased in-hospital mortality (odds ratio 2.08, 95% confidence interval 1.34-3.21, P=.001), after adjusting for patient characteristics and severity of critical illness. Only 34 patients (21.1%) treated with palliative RT received additional cancer-directed treatment after ICU admission.
Conclusions: For patients with metastatic cancer, prior treatment with palliative RT is associated with increased in-hospital mortality after ICU admission. Nearly half of patients previously treated with palliative RT either died during hospitalization or were discharged with hospice care, and few received further cancer-directed therapy. Palliative RT referral may represent an opportunity to discuss end-of-life treatment preferences with patients and families.
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The aim of this study was to assess the opinion of intensive care unit (ICU) personnel and the impact of their personality and religious beliefs on decisions to forego life-sustaining treatments (DFLSTs) | BMJ Open
Results: The participation rate was 65.7%. Significant differences in DFLSTs between doctors and nurses were identified. 71.4% of doctors and 59.8% of nurses stated that the family was not properly informed about DFLST and the main reason was the family’s inability to understand medical details. 51% of doctors expressed fear of litigation and 47% of them declared that this concern influenced the information given to family and nursing staff. 7.5% of the nurses considered DFLSTs dangerous, criminal or illegal. Multivariate logistic regression identified that to be a nurse and to have a high neuroticism score were independent predictors for preferring the term ‘passive euthanasia’ over ‘futile care’ (OR 4.41, 95% CI 2.21 to 8.82, p<0.001, and OR 1.59, 95% CI 1.03 to 2.72, p<0.05, respectively). Furthermore, to be a nurse and to have a high-trust religious profile were related to unwillingness to withdraw mechanical ventilation. Fear of litigation and non-disclosure of the information to the family in case of DFLST were associated with a psychoticism personality trait (OR 2.45, 95% CI 1.25 to 4.80, p<0.05).
Conclusion: We demonstrate that fear of litigation is a major barrier to properly informing a patient’s relatives and nursing staff. Furthermore, aspects of personality and religious beliefs influence the attitudes of ICU personnel when making decisions to forego life-sustaining treatments.
Beckstrand, R. et al. (2017) Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing. 36(2) pp. 94–105
Abstract: Background: Nurses working in intensive care units (ICUs) frequently care for patients and their families at the end of life (EOL). Providing high-quality EOL care is important for both patients and families, yet ICU nurses face many obstacles that hinder EOL care. Researchers have identified various ICU nurse-perceived obstacles, but no studies have been found addressing the progress that has been made for the last 17 years.
Conclusions: Obstacles in EOL care, as perceived by critical care nurses, still exist. Family-related obstacles have increased over time. Obstacles related to families may not be easily overcome as each family, dealing with a dying family member in an ICU, likely has not previously experienced a similar situation. On the basis of the current top 5 obstacles, recommendations for possible areas of focus include (1) improved health literacy assessment of families followed by earlier directed, appropriate, and specific EOL information; (2) improved physician/team communication; and (3) ensuring patients’ wishes are followed as written. In general, patient- and family-centered care using clear and open EOL communication regarding wishes and desires between patients and families, their physicians, and nurses will help decrease common obstacles, thus improving the quality of EOL care provided to dying patients and families.
Jones, B. & Bernstein, C. (2017) Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing. 36(2) pp. 106–109
There is growing recognition that electronic medical record triggers in the intensive care unit (ICU) have led to an increase in palliative care consultations. One suburban health care system adopted triggers unique to their culture and setting in a pilot study and saw an increase in palliative consultations in the ICU. Implementing triggers is often a complex and multifaceted process to adopt. This review shares the steps from concept to implementation of establishing palliative prompts in 1 ICU within an integrated health care system.
Picker, D. et al. Critical Care Medicine. Published online: October 20 2016
Objective: To determine whether an Early Warning System could identify patients wishing to focus on palliative care measures.
Design: Prospective, randomized, pilot study.
Setting: Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Saint Louis, MO (January 15, 2015, to December 12, 2015).
Patients: A total of 206 patients; 89 intervention (43.2%) and 117 controls (56.8%).
Interventions: Palliative care in high-risk patients targeted by an Early Warning System.
Measurements and Main Results: Advanced directive documentation was significantly greater prior to discharge in the intervention group (37.1% vs 15.4%; p < 0.001) as were first-time requests for advanced directive documentation (14.6% vs 0.0%; p < 0.001). Documentation of resuscitation status was also greater prior to discharge in the intervention group (36.0% vs 23.1%; p = 0.043). There was no difference in the number of patients requesting a change in resuscitation status between groups (11.2% vs 9.4%; p = 0.666). However, changes in resuscitation status occurred earlier and on the general medicine units for the intervention group compared to the control group. The number of patients transferred to an ICU was significantly lower for intervention patients (12.4% vs 27.4%; p = 0.009). The median (interquartile range) ICU length of stay was significantly less for the intervention group (0 [0-0] vs 0 [0-1] d; p = 0.014). Hospital mortality was similar (12.4% vs 10.3%; p = 0.635).
Conclusions: This study suggests that automated Early Warning System alerts can identify patients potentially benefitting from directed palliative care discussions and reduce the number of ICU transfers.
O’Connell, K. & Maier, R. Current Opinion in Critical Care. Published online: September 21 2016
Purpose of review: The benefits of palliative care for critically ill patients are well recognized, yet acceptance into surgical culture is lagging. With the increasing proportion of geriatric trauma patients, integration of palliative medicine within daily intensive care services to facilitate goal-concordant care is imperative.
Recent findings: Misconceptions of palliative medicine as it applies to trauma patients linger among trauma surgeons and many continue to practice without routine consultation of a palliative care service. Aggressive end-of-life care does not correlate with an improved family perception of medical care received near death. Additionally, elderly patients near the end of life often prefer palliative treatments over life-extending therapy, and their treatment preferences are often not achieved. A new geriatric-specific prognosis calculator estimates the risk of mortality after trauma, which is useful in starting goals of care discussions with older patients and their families.
Summary: Shifting our quality focus from 30-day mortality rates to measurements of symptom control and achievement of patient treatment preferences will prioritize patient beneficence and autonomy. Ownership of surgical palliative care as a service provided by acute care surgeons will ensure that our patients with incurable injury and illness will receive optimal patient-centered care.
Wysham, N. et al. Critical Care Medicine. Published online: 9 September 2016
Objective: Addressing the quality gap in ICU-based palliative care is limited by uncertainty about acceptable models of collaborative specialist and generalist care. Therefore, we characterized the attitudes of physicians and nurses about palliative care delivery in an ICU environment.
Design: Mixed-methods study.
Setting: Medical and surgical ICUs at three large academic hospitals.
Participants: Three hundred three nurses, intensivists, and advanced practice providers.
Measurements and Main Results: Clinicians completed written surveys that assessed attitudes about specialist palliative care presence and integration into the ICU setting, as well as acceptability of 23 published palliative care prompts (triggers) for specialist consultation. Most (n = 225; 75%) reported that palliative care consultation was underutilized. Prompting consideration of eligibility for specialist consultation by electronic health record searches for triggers was most preferred (n = 123; 41%); only 17 of them (6%) felt current processes were adequate. The most acceptable specialist triggers were metastatic malignancy, unrealistic goals of care, end of life decision making, and persistent organ failure. Advanced age, length of stay, and duration of life support were the least acceptable. Screening led by either specialists or ICU teams was equally preferred. Central themes derived from qualitative analysis of 65 written responses to open-ended items included concerns about the roles of physicians and nurses, implementation, and impact on ICU team-family relationships.
Conclusions: Integration of palliative care specialists in the ICU is broadly acceptable and desired. However, the most commonly used current triggers for prompting specialist consultation were among the least well accepted, while more favorable triggers are difficult to abstract from electronic health record systems. There is also disagreement about the role of ICU nurses in palliative care delivery. These findings provide important guidance to the development of collaborative care models for the ICU setting.