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Opportunities to improve palliative care delivery in trauma critical illness

The American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Care September 1, 2021

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Research Areas


BACKGROUND: Despite recommendations to integrate palliative care (PC) into care for critically ill trauma patients, little is known about current PC practices in trauma care to inform opportunities for improvement.

OBJECTIVE: Describe patterns of PC delivery among a large, critically ill trauma cohort.

SETTING/SUBJECTS: Retrospective cohort study of adult (≥18 years) trauma patients admitted to an intensive care unit (ICU) at an urban, level one trauma center in the United States from March 1, 2017 to March 1, 2019.

METHODS: We linked the electronic medical record with the institutional trauma registry. PC process measures included a PC consult order, advance care planning (ACP) note, and hospice use. Unadjusted results are reported for the total population, decedents, and subgroups at risk for poor outcomes (age ≥55 years, Black race ≥1 pre-existing comorbidity, and severe injury) after trauma.

RESULTS: Among 1309 eligible admissions, 902 (68.9%) were male, 640 (48.9%) were Black, and 654 (50.0%) were ≥55 years old. Eighty-one (6.2%) patients received a PC consult order, 66 (5.0%) had an ACP note, and 13 (1.1%) were discharged to hospice. Among decedents (N = 91; 7%), 28 (30.8%) received a PC consult order and 36 (39.6%) had an ACP note. For high-risk subgroups, PC consult orders and ACP note rates ranged from 4.5-12.8% and 4.5-11.8%, respectively.

CONCLUSION: PC delivery was rare among this cohort, including those at high risk for poor outcomes. Urgent efforts are needed to identify barriers to and develop targeted interventions for high quality PC delivery in trauma ICU care.


National Heart,Lung,and Blood Institute (NHLBI)