Unsuitable for the intensive care unit: what happens next?

Link to article at PubMed

Unsuitable for the intensive care unit: what happens next?

J Palliat Med. 2011 Aug;14(8):899-903

Authors: McKeown A, Booth MG, Strachan L, Calder A, Keeley PW

Abstract
CONTEXT: In recent years numbers of referrals to intensive care units (ICU) throughout the United Kingdom has been increasing. A number of referrals to the ICU are considered to be inappropriate for a variety of reasons, including those patients who are felt to be either too well for admission, or have comorbidities making survival unlikely and aggressive interventions unsuitable.
OBJECTIVES: This study aims to examine the outcomes and symptoms in those patients who are unsuitable for admission to ICU. By looking at this population we hope to ascertain if this is an at-risk group in terms of symptomatic or care needs at the end of life.
METHODS: This was as an observational prospective study with the sample population identified via the ICU referrals process. All patients referred to the ICU for admission but deemed unsuitable were recorded and followed up by researchers on the wards.
RESULTS: Fifty patients were identified between January and April 2009. Outcomes at one week were split between "death" (34%), "discharge" (24%), and ongoing illness/rehabilitation (40%). Levels of comorbidity were high, with a corresponding prevalence of severe breathlessness in all outcome groups.
CONCLUSION: The results suggest there are small numbers of patients with uncontrolled symptoms who could benefit from specialist input from the palliative care team. The identification of the imminently dying should facilitate appropriate communication of this by clinical staff and allow the relevant social, psychological, and spiritual preparations for death that are the hallmark of good care of the dying.

PMID: 21711124 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

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