End-of-life practices among tertiary care PICUs in the United States: A multicenter study

Kathleen L. Meert*, Linda Keele, Wynne Morrison, Robert A. Berg, Heidi Dalton, Christopher J L Newth, Rick Harrison, David L. Wessel, Thomas Shanley, Joseph Carcillo, Amy Clark, Richard Holubkov, Tammara L. Jenkins, Allan Doctor, J. Michael Dean, Murray Pollack

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe variability in end-of-life practices among tertiary care PICUs in the United States. Design: Secondary analysis of data prospectively collected from a random sample of patients (n = 10,078) admitted to PICUs affiliated with the Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network between December 4, 2011, and April 7, 2013. Setting: Seven clinical centers affiliated with the Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network. Patients: Patients included in the primary study were less than 18 years old, admitted to a PICU, and not moribund on PICU admission. Patients included in the secondary analysis were those who died during their hospital stay. Interventions: None. Measurements and Main Results: Two hundred and seventy-five (2.7%; range across sites, 1.3-5.0%) patients died during their hospital stay; of these, 252 (92%; 76-100%) died in a PICU. Discussions with families about limitation or withdrawal of support occurred during the initial PICU stay for 173 patients (63%; 47-76%; p = 0.27) who died. Of these, palliative care was consulted for 67 (39%; 12-46%); pain service for 11 (6%; 10 of which were at a single site); and ethics committee for six (3%, from three sites). Mode of death was withdrawal of support for 141 (51%; 42-59%), failed cardiopulmonary resuscitation for 53 (19%; 12-28%), limitation of support for 46 (17%; 7-24%), and brain death for 35 (13%; 8-20%); mode of death did not differ across sites (p = 0.58). Organ donation was requested from 101 families (37%; 17-88%; p < 0.001). Of these, 20 donated (20%; 0-64%). Sixty-two deaths (23%; 10-53%; p < 0.001) were medical examiner cases. Of nonmedical examiner cases (n = 213), autopsy was requested for 79 (37%; 17-75%; p < 0.001). Of autopsies requested, 53 (67%; 50-100%) were performed. Conclusions: Most deaths in Collaborative Pediatric Critical Care Research Network-affiliated PICUs occur after life support has been limited or withdrawn. Wide practice variation exists in requests for organ donation and autopsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e231-e238
JournalPediatric Critical Care Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 1 2015


  • autopsy
  • death
  • end-of-life care
  • organ donation
  • pediatrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine

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