Quality of transition to end-of-life care for cancer patients in the intensive care unit

Sophie J Miller, Nishita Desai, Natalie Pattison, Joanne M Droney, Angela King, Paul Farquhar-Smith, Pascale C Gruber

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BACKGROUND: There have been few studies that have evaluated the quality of end-of-life care (EOLC) for cancer patients in the ICU. The aim of this study was to explore the quality of transition to EOLC for cancer patients in ICU.

METHODS: The study was undertaken on medical patients admitted to a specialist cancer hospital ICU over 6 months. Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to explore quality of transition to EOLC using documentary evidence. Clinical parameters on ICU admission were reviewed to determine if they could be used to identify patients who were likely to transition to EOLC during their ICU stay.

RESULTS: Of 85 patients, 44.7% transitioned to EOLC during their ICU stay. Qualitative and quantitative analysis of the patients' records demonstrated that there was collaborative decision-making between teams, patients and families during transition to EOLC. However, 51.4 and 40.5% of patients were too unwell to discuss transition to EOLC and DNACPR respectively. In the EOLC cohort, 76.3% died in ICU, but preferred place of death known in only 10%. Age, APACHE II score, and organ support, but not cancer diagnosis, were identified as associated with transition to EOLC (p = 0.017, p < 0.0001 and p = 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS: Advanced EOLC planning in patients with progressive disease prior to acute deterioration is warranted to enable patients' wishes to be fulfilled and ceiling of treatments agreed. Better documentation and development of validated tools to measure the quality EOLC transition on the ICU are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59
JournalAnnals of intensive care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jul 2015


  • palliative
  • intensive care
  • communication
  • do not resuscitate


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