Palliative care (PC) is associated with lower-intensity treatment and better outcomes at the end of life. Trauma surgeons play a critical role in end-of-life (EOL) care; however, the impact of PC on health care utilization at the end of life has yet to be characterized in older trauma patients.METHODS
This retrospective cohort study using 2006 to 2011 national Medicare claims included trauma patients 65 years or older who died within 180 days after discharge. The exposure of interest was inpatient PC during the trauma admission. A non-PC control group was developed by exact matching for age, comorbidity, admission year, injury severity, length of stay, and post-discharge survival. We used logistic regression to evaluate six EOL care outcomes: discharge to hospice, rehospitalization, skilled nursing facility or long-term acute care hospital admission, death in an institutional setting, and intensive care unit admission or receipt of life-sustaining treatments during a subsequent hospitalization.RESULTS
Of 294,665 patients who died within 180 days after discharge, 2.1% received inpatient PC. Among 5,693 matched pairs, inpatient PC was associated with increased odds of discharge to hospice (odds ratio [OR], 3.80; 95% confidence interval [CI], 3.54–4.09) and reduced odds of rehospitalization (OR, 0.17; 95% CI, 0.15–0.20), skilled nursing facility/long-term acute care hospital admission (OR, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.39–0.47), death in an institutional setting (OR, 0.34; 95% CI, 0.30–0.39), subsequent intensive care unit admission (OR, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.36–0.72), or receiving life-sustaining treatments (OR, 0.56; 95% CI, 0.39–0.80).CONCLUSION
Inpatient PC is associated with lower-intensity and less burdensome EOL care in the geriatric trauma population. Nonetheless, it remains underused among those who die within 6 months after discharge.LEVEL OF EVIDENCE
Therapeutic/Care management, level III.