Experience with neonatal palliative care consultation at the Medical College of Wisconsin-Children's Hospital of Wisconsin

J Palliat Med. 2001 Spring;4(1):39-47. doi: 10.1089/109662101300051960.


At Children's Hospital of Wisconsin there is a pediatric palliative care consultation service that serves a diverse patient population, including infants. However, the value of a palliative care consultation for infants has not been well evaluated. We performed a retrospective, case series, descriptive chart review of infants in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) who received palliative care consults between January 1996 and June 1998. We specifically looked at their diagnoses, the timing of consults, reasons that consultations were ordered, what recommendations were made, and the subsequent outcomes. During the series period there were 898 admissions to the NICU, 51 neonatal deaths, and 12 neonatal palliative care consultations. The diagnostic categories for those with a palliative care referral included prematurity, lethal anomalies, and catastrophic or overwhelming illness. Reasons for the consultations were organization of home hospice, facilitation of medical options, such as do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders and treatment withdrawal, facilitation of comfort measures, and grief/loss issues. Recommendations that the palliative care staff made fell into four categories: advance directive planning, the optimal environment for supporting neonatal death, comfort and medical care, and psychosocial support. This series is a description of what a palliative care service can offer for terminally ill infants in an NICU. We speculate that such consults can more consistently and comprehensively provide appropriate end-of-life care for these patients and their families.

MeSH terms

  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Neonatology
  • Palliative Care*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Wisconsin