A randomized, controlled trial to improve advance care planning among patients undergoing cardiac surgery

Med Care. 2005 Oct;43(10):1049-53. doi: 10.1097/01.mlr.0000178192.10283.b4.


Background: Although many healthcare providers and researchers consider it necessary to assist patients with end-stage chronic illnesses to plan for the end of life, they tend to avoid discussing end-of-life issues with patients before major surgery. Consequently, surgical patients and their families generally have insufficient knowledge to make plans in case of life-threatening complications.

Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate short-term effects of Patient-Centered Advance Care Planning (PC-ACP).

Design and subjects: Thirty-two dyads of patients undergoing cardiac surgery and their surrogates were randomly assigned to receive either the PC-ACP intervention (PC-ACP) or usual care.

Measures: Measures studied were patient-surrogate congruence regarding goals for future medical care, patient and surrogate knowledge of advance care planning and anxiety, and patient decisional conflict. Congruence and anxiety were measured before and after the intervention. Decisional conflict and knowledge of advance care planning were measured after the intervention.

Results: Compared with the control group, PC-ACP significantly improved patient-surrogate congruence (Delta=1.27, P<0.01) and reduced patients' decisional conflict (Delta=-0.77, P<0.05). Anxiety change (pre/post) did not differ between treatment and control groups. No difference in knowledge of advance care planning was found between the 2 groups.

Conclusions: The PC-ACP can be an effective approach to advance care planning. Its specificity and relevance to patients' actual medical conditions (as exemplified by its plans for potential complications related to cardiac surgery) can lead to greater patient-surrogate congruence without increasing decisional conflict and anxiety.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advance Care Planning / organization & administration
  • Advance Care Planning / standards*
  • Aged
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures* / psychology
  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Nurse-Patient Relations
  • Patient Participation
  • Patient-Centered Care*
  • Proxy
  • Quality Assurance, Health Care / methods*