Treatment limitations in intensive care units

Lars Christensen, Hanne Jensen, Steffen Kristensen, Mathias Goldinger, Jakob Gjedsted, Steffen Christensen, Charles Sprung, Alex Avidan, Avidan Mentzelopoulos, Hans-Henrik Bulow

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INTRODUCTION: Patients in intensive care units (ICUs) have treatment limited or withdrawn if further treatment is considered futile. This multicentre prospective observational study was part of a European study of patterns of limitations.

METHODS: In the first six months of 2016, all patients admitted to three Danish ICUs were screened and those with treatment limitations or death in the ICU were included. End-of-life outcomes were classified into five mutually exclusive categories: withholding, withdrawing, shortening of dying process, failed cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and brain death. This sub-study compared interdepartmental variation in limitation patterns among Danish ICUs.

RESULTS: A total of 1,132 ICU patients were admitted, and 264 (23.3%) had limitations to their treatment and/or died and were therefore included. Mortality among these patients was 71.5%, with interdepartmental differences of 52-85% in mortality, but no difference in overall mortality. Specifically, eight different limitations were described with distinct differences amongst departments, most likely due to case mix differences. A total of 96% of patients with limitations suffered from one or more chronic conditions, and 15-48% of the patients with limitations survived to ICU discharge.

CONCLUSION: Many Danish ICU patients have limitations imposed on therapy during their ICU stay, but large interdepartmental differences are primarily based on case mix differences. Although a large proportion of patients with limitations ultimately die, limitations do not portend imminent death.



TidsskriftDanish medical journal
Udgave nummer8
StatusUdgivet - 13 jul. 2021

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Articles published in the DMJ are “open access”. This means that the articles are distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits any non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and source are credited.


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