Deaths and end-of-life decisions differed between neonatal and paediatric intensive care units at the same children's hospital

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Abstract

Aim:

We compared neonatal deaths and end-of-life decisions in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and paediatric intensive care unit (PICU) in a Dutch tertiary children's hospital.

Subjects:

All 235 full-term infants who died within 28 days of life between 2003 and 2013 in the NICU (n = 199) and PICU (n = 36) were retrospectively studied.

Results:

The median length of stay was three days in the NICU and seven days in the PICU (p = 0.003). The main reasons for NICU stays were asphyxia (52.8%) and congenital malformations (42.2%), and in the PICU, they were congenital malformations (97.2%) and primarily cardiac problems (83.3%, p < 0.001). The median age of death was three days in the NICU and eight days in the PICU (p < 0.001), and mortality despite full intensive care treatment was 4.0% and 25.0%, respectively. Intensive treatment was discontinued because of poor survival chances in 25.1% of NICU and 52.8% of PICU cases (p < 0.001), and care was redirected because of expected poor quality of life in 70.9% and 22.2%, respectively.

Conclusion:

Differences between the age at death and end-of-life decisions were found between full-term infants in the NICU and PICU in the same children's hospital. Underlying disorders and doctors' attitudes may have played a role.

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