Surgical Interventions During End-of-Life Hospitalizations in Children’s Hospitals

Michael D. Traynor, Ryan M. Antiel, Maraya N. Camazine, Thane A. Blinman, Michael L. Nance, Pirooz Eghtesady, Sandi K. Lam, Matt Hall, Chris Feudtner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVES: To characterize patterns of surgery among pediatric patients during terminal hospitalizations in children’s hospitals. METHODS: We reviewed patients #20 years of age who died among 4 424 886 hospitalizations from January 2013–December 2019 within 49 US children’s hospitals in the Pediatric Health Information System database. Surgical procedures, identified by International Classification of Diseases procedure codes, were classified by type and purpose. Descriptive statistics characterized procedures, and hypothesis testing determined if undergoing surgery varied by patient age, race and ethnicity, or the presence of chronic complex conditions (CCCs). RESULTS: Among 33 693 terminal hospitalizations, the majority (n 5 30 440, 90.3%) of children were admitted for nontraumatic causes. Of these children, 15 142 (49.7%) underwent surgery during the hospitalization, with the percentage declining over time (P < .001). When surgical procedures were classified according to likely purpose, the most common were to insert or address hardware or catheters (31%), explore or aid in diagnosis (14%), attempt to rescue patient from mortality (13%), or obtain a biopsy (13%). Specific CCC types were associated with undergoing surgery. Surgery during terminal hospitalization was less likely among Hispanic children (47.8%; P < .001), increasingly less likely as patient age increased, and more so for Black, Asian American, and Hispanic patients compared with white patients (P < .001). CONCLUSIONS: Nearly half of children undergo surgery during their terminal hospitalization, and accordingly, pediatric surgical care is an important aspect of end-of-life care in hospital settings. Differences observed across race and ethnicity categories of patients may reflect different preferences for and access to nonhospital-based palliative, hospice, and end-of-life care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number:e2020047464
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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