End-of-Life Care in Older Patients After Serious or Severe Traumatic Brain Injury in Low-Mortality Hospitals Compared With All Other Hospitals

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Abstract

Importance

More than 80% of older patients die or are seriously impaired within 1 year after severe traumatic brain injury (TBI). Given their poor survival, information about end-of-life care is a relevant marker of high-value trauma care for these patients. In-hospital mortality is commonly used to measure quality of trauma care; however, it is not known what type of end-of-life care hospitals with the best survival outcomes provide to those who die.

Objective

To determine whether end-of-life care for older patients with TBI is correlated with in-hospital mortality.

Design, Setting, and Participants

A retrospective cohort study using 2005-2011 national Medicare claims from acute care hospitals was conducted. Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 years or older who were admitted with serious or severe TBI were included. Transferred patients, those treated at low-volume hospitals, and those who died on the date of admission were excluded. Low-mortality hospitals were those in the lowest quartile for in-hospital mortality using standardized mortality rates adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, comorbidity, and injury severity. Patients at low-mortality hospitals were compared with patients at all other hospitals. The study was conducted from January 2005 to December 2011. Data analysis was conducted between August 2016 and February 2017.

Main Outcomes and Measures

End-of-life care outcomes for patients who died in hospital or 30 days or less after discharge included gastrostomy and tracheostomy placement during the TBI admission and enrollment in hospice.

Results

Of 363 hospitals included in the analysis, 91 (25.1%) were designated as low-mortality. The cohort included 34 691 patients (median age, 79 years; interquartile range, 72-84 years; 40.8% women). Of these patients, 55.8% of those at low-mortality hospitals and 62.5% at all other hospitals died in the hospital or 30 days or less after discharge (P < .01). Among patients who died in the hospital (n = 16 994), end-of-life care was similar at low-mortality hospitals and all other hospitals. For patients who survived the TBI admission and died 30 days or less after discharge (n = 4027), those at low-mortality hospitals underwent fewer gastrostomy (15.9% vs 24.0%; adjusted OR, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.52-0.72) or tracheostomy (18.2% vs 24.9%; adjusted OR, 0.71; 95% CI, 0.60-0.83) procedures and received more hospice care (66.3% vs 52.5%; adjusted OR, 1.72; 95% CI, 1.50-1.96).

Conclusions and Relevance

For older patients with serious or severe TBI, hospitals with the lowest in-hospital mortality perform fewer high-intensity treatments at the end of life and enroll more patients in hospice without increasing cumulative mortality 30 days or less after discharge.

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