Modes of Death in a Pediatric Cardiac ICU*

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Abstract

Objective:

To determine epidemiology and proximate causes of death in a pediatric cardiac ICU in Southern Europe.

Design:

Retrospective chart review.

Setting:

Single-center institution.

Patients:

We concurrently identified 57 consecutive patients who died prior to discharge from the cardiac ICU.

Interventions:

None.

Measurements and Main Results:

Over the study period, there were 57 deaths for a combined mortality rate of 2.4%. Four patients (7%) were declared brain dead, 25 patients (43.8%) died after a failed resuscitation attempt, and 28 patients (49.1%) died after withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. Cardiorespiratory failure was the most frequent proximate cause of death (39, 68.4%) followed by brain injury (14, 24.6%) and septic shock (4, 7%). Older age at admission, presence of mechanical ventilation and/or device-dependent nutrition support, patients on a left-ventricular assist device and longer cardiac ICU stay were more likely to have life support withheld or withdrawn.

Conclusions:

Almost half of the deaths in the cardiac ICU are predictable, and they are anticipated by the decision to limit life-sustaining treatments. Brain injuries play a direct role in the death of 25% of patients who die in the cardiac ICU. Patients with left-ventricular assist device are associated with withdrawal of treatment.

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