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Life after death in the ICU: Detecting family-centered outcomes remains difficult

Intensive Care Medicine September 22, 2017

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Research Areas


Family members of patients who die in the ICU experience significant and lasting psychological burdens, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, and prolonged grief. Among the many potential contributors to these adverse bereavement outcomes are the circumstances surrounding and processes of limiting life support. This hypothesis is supported by evidence that ICU deaths are commonly preceded by decisions to withdraw life support, and evidence that both ICU processes of care and behaviors of ICU clinicians near the end of life can influence family members’ post-ICU psychological outcomes. Thus, uncertainty regarding which approaches to withdrawing mechanical ventilation are least distressing for patients and families represents an important area for rigorous investigation.