Patient factors and outcomes associated with the withdrawal or withholding of life-sustaining therapies in mechanically ventilated brain-injured patients: An observational multicentre study

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BACKGROUNDKnowledge of the factors associated with the decision to withdraw or withhold life support (WWLS) in brain-injured patients is limited. However, most deaths in these patients may involve such a decision.OBJECTIVESTo identify factors associated with the decision to WWLS in brain-injured patients requiring mechanical ventilation who survive the first 24 h in the ICU, and to analyse the outcomes and time to death.DESIGNA retrospective observational multicentre study.SETTINGSTwenty French ICUs in 18 university hospitals.PATIENTSA total of 793 mechanically ventilated brain-injured adult patients.INTERVENTIONSNone.MAIN OUTCOME MEASURESDecision to WWLS within 3 months of ICU admission, and death or Glasgow Outcome Scale (GOS) score at day 90.RESULTSA decision to WWLS was made in 171 patients (22%), of whom 89% were dead at day 90. Out of the 247 deaths recorded at day 90, 153 (62%) were observed after a decision to WWLS. The median time between admission and death when a decision to WWLS was made was 10 (5 to 20) days vs. 10 (5 to 26) days when no end-of-life decision was made (P < 0.924). Among the 18 patients with a decision to WWLS who were still alive at day 90, three patients (2%) had a GOS score of 2, nine patients (5%) had a GOS score of 3 and five patients (3%) a GOS score of 4. Older age, presence of one nonreactive and dilated pupil, Glasgow Coma Scale less than 7, barbiturate use, acute respiratory distress syndrome and worsening lesions on computed tomography scans were each independently associated with decisions to WWLS.CONCLUSIONUsing a nationwide cohort of brain-injured patients, we observed a high proportion of deaths associated with an end-of-life decision. Older age and several disease severity factors were associated with the decision to WWLS.

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