Anaesthesiologie. 2022 May 23. doi: 10.1007/s00101-022-01127-6. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: With modern intensive care medicine, even older patients and those with pre-existing conditions can survive critical illnesses and major operations; however, unreflected application of intensive care treatment might lead to a state called chronic critical illness. Today, withholding treatment and/or treatment withdrawal precede many deaths in the intensice care unit (ICU). We looked at changes in measures at the end of life and withholding or withdrawal of treatment in the ICU of a German tertiary hospital in 2017/2018 compared to 2011/2012.
METHODS: In this retrospective explorative study, we analyzed end of life practices in adult patients who died in an intermediate care unit (IMC)/ICU of Klinikum Hanau in 2017/2018. We compared these data with data from the same hospital in 2011/2012 RESULTS: Of the 1246 adult patients who died in Klinikum Hanau in 2017/2018, 433 (35%) died in an ICU or IMC unit. Deceased ICU patients were 74.0 ± 12.5 years and 86.6% were older than 60 years. At least one life-sustaining measure was withheld in 278 (76.2%) and withdrawn in 159 (46.3%) of patients. More than three quarters of patients (n = 276, 75.6%) had a do not resuscitate (DNR) order and in about half of the patients invasive ventilation (n = 175, 49.9%) or renal replacement therapy (n = 191, 52.3%) was limited. In 113 patients (31.0%) catecholamine treatment was withdrawn, in 72 (19.7%) patients invasive ventilation and in 49 (13.4%) patients renal replacement therapy. Compared to 2011/2012, we saw an increase by ~15% (absolute increase) in withholding and withdrawal of treatment and observed an effect of documents like advance directive or healthcare proxy.
CONCLUSION: In 76.2% of deceased ICU patients withholding treatment and in 43.6% treatment withdrawal preceded death. Compared to 2011/2012 treatment was withheld or withdrawn more often. Compared to 2011/2012, we saw an increase (~15% absolute) in withholding and withdrawal of treatment. After withholding or withdrawal of treatment, most patients died within 3 and 2 days, respectively.