Palliative care in intensive care units: why, where, what, who, when, how

BMC Anesthesiol. 2018 Aug 16;18(1):106. doi: 10.1186/s12871-018-0574-9.


Palliative care is patient and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering when "curative" therapies are futile. In the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), critically ill patients receive life-sustaining therapies with the goal of restoring or maintaining organ function. Palliative Care in the ICU is a widely discussed topic and it is increasingly applied in clinics. It encompasses symptoms control and end-of-life management, communication with relatives and setting goals of care ensuring dignity in death and decision-making power. However, effective application of Palliative Care in ICU presupposes specific knowledge and training which anesthesiologists and critical care physicians may lack. Moreover, logistic issues such protocols for patients' selection, application models and triggers for consultation of external experts are still matter of debate.The aim of this review is to provide the anesthesiologists and intensivists an overview of the aims, current evidence and practical advices about the application of palliative care in ICU.

Keywords: End-of-life care; ICU; Intensive care unit; Palliative care; Patient-centered care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anesthesiologists
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Palliative Care / standards*
  • Patient-Centered Care
  • Physicians
  • Quality of Life*