Association of Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment with ICU Admission among Patients Hospitalized Near the End of Life

Robert Y. Lee, Lyndia C. Brumback, Seelwan Sathitratanacheewin, William B. Lober, Matthew E. Modes, Ylinne T. Lynch, Corey I. Ambrose, James Sibley, Kelly C. Vranas, Donald R. Sullivan, Ruth A. Engelberg, J. Randall Curtis, Erin K. Kross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

Importance: Patients with chronic illness frequently use Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) to document treatment limitations. Objectives: To evaluate the association between POLST order for medical interventions and intensive care unit (ICU) admission for patients hospitalized near the end of life. Design, Setting, and Participants: Retrospective cohort study of patients with POLSTs and with chronic illness who died between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2017, and were hospitalized 6 months or less before death in a 2-hospital academic health care system. Exposures: POLST order for medical interventions ("comfort measures only" vs "limited additional interventions" vs "full treatment"), age, race/ethnicity, education, days from POLST completion to admission, histories of cancer or dementia, and admission for traumatic injury. Main Outcomes and Measures: The primary outcome was the association between POLST order and ICU admission during the last hospitalization of life; the secondary outcome was receipt of a composite of 4 life-sustaining treatments: mechanical ventilation, vasopressors, dialysis, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation. For evaluating factors associated with POLST-discordant care, the outcome was ICU admission contrary to POLST order for medical interventions during the last hospitalization of life. Results: Among 1818 decedents (mean age, 70.8 [SD, 14.7] years; 41% women), 401 (22%) had POLST orders for comfort measures only, 761 (42%) had orders for limited additional interventions, and 656 (36%) had orders for full treatment. ICU admissions occurred in 31% (95% CI, 26%-35%) of patients with comfort-only orders, 46% (95% CI, 42%-49%) with limited-interventions orders, and 62% (95% CI, 58%-66%) with full-treatment orders. One or more life-sustaining treatments were delivered to 14% (95% CI, 11%-17%) of patients with comfort-only orders and to 20% (95% CI, 17%-23%) of patients with limited-interventions orders. Compared with patients with full-treatment POLSTs, those with comfort-only and limited-interventions orders were significantly less likely to receive ICU admission (comfort only: 123/401 [31%] vs 406/656 [62%], aRR, 0.53 [95% CI, 0.45-0.62]; limited interventions: 349/761 [46%] vs 406/656 [62%], aRR, 0.79 [95% CI, 0.71-0.87]). Across patients with comfort-only and limited-interventions POLSTs, 38% (95% CI, 35%-40%) received POLST-discordant care. Patients with cancer were significantly less likely to receive POLST-discordant care than those without cancer (comfort only: 41/181 [23%] vs 80/220 [36%], aRR, 0.60 [95% CI, 0.43-0.85]; limited interventions: 100/321 [31%] vs 215/440 [49%], aRR, 0.63 [95% CI, 0.51-0.78]). Patients with dementia and comfort-only orders were significantly less likely to receive POLST-discordant care than those without dementia (23/111 [21%] vs 98/290 [34%], aRR, 0.44 [95% CI, 0.29-0.67]). Patients admitted for traumatic injury were significantly more likely to receive POLST-discordant care (comfort only: 29/64 [45%] vs 92/337 [27%], aRR, 1.52 [95% CI, 1.08-2.14]; limited interventions: 51/91 [56%] vs 264/670 [39%], aRR, 1.36 [95% CI, 1.09-1.68]). In patients with limited-interventions orders, older age was significantly associated with less POLST-discordant care (aRR, 0.93 per 10 years [95% CI, 0.88-1.00]). Conclusions and Relevance: Among patients with POLSTs and with chronic life-limiting illness who were hospitalized within 6 months of death, treatment-limiting POLSTs were significantly associated with lower rates of ICU admission compared with full-treatment POLSTs. However, 38% of patients with treatment-limiting POLSTs received intensive care that was potentially discordant with their POLST..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)950-960
Number of pages11
JournalJAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association
Volume323
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 10 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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