Developing triggers for the surgical intensive care unit for palliative care integration

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Despite the growing acceptance of palliative care as a component of high-quality care for patients with serious illness, it remains underutilized in the surgical critical care setting. This article provides insight into a model for palliative care integration into the surgical intensive care unit (SICU), using triggers.


We performed a prospective cohort study after the implementation of a new set of palliative care triggers in the SICU of an 1170-bed tertiary medical center over the course of 9 months. We aimed to determine the ability of these triggers to identify patients who would benefit from palliative care consultation.


There were 517 SICU admissions during the period of interest. Of this cohort, patients who had not yet been discharged at the time of analysis were excluded (n = 25), and the remaining underwent analysis (n = 492). Factors significantly associated with hospital death or hospice discharge were repeat SICU admission, metastatic/advanced cancer, SICU physician referral, and the matching of 2 or more secondary criteria.


A series of triggers can help identify patients who may benefit from palliative care consultation. This approach can be used in intensive care settings to facilitate palliative care integration.

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