Objective: To report incidence and characteristics of decisions to forgo life-sustaining therapies (DFLSTs) in the 282 ICUs who contributed to the SAPS3 database.
Methods: We reviewed data on DFLSTs in 14,488 patients. Independent predictors of DFLSTs have been identified by stepwise logistic regression.
Results: DFLSTs occurred in 1,239 (8.6%) patients [677 (54.6%) withholding and 562 (45.4%) withdrawal decisions]. Hospital mortality was 21% (3,050/14,488); 36.2% (1,105) deaths occurred after DFLSTs. Across the participating ICUs, hospital mortality in patients with DFLSTs ranged from 80.3 to 95.4% and time from admission to decisions ranged from 2 to 4 days. Independent predictors of decisions to forgo LSTs included 13 variables associated with increased incidence of DFLSTs and 7 variables associated with decrease incidence of DFLST. Among hospital and ICU-related variables, a higher number of nurses per bed was associated with increased incidence of DFLST, while availability of an emergency department in the same hospital, presence of a full time ICU-specialist and doctors presence during nights and week-ends were associated with a decreased incidence of DFLST.
Conclusion: This large study identifies structural variables that are associated with substantial variations in the incidence and the characteristics of decisions to forgo life-sustaining therapies.