Predictors of withdrawal of life support after burn injury

Burns. 2019 Mar;45(2):322-327. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2018.10.015. Epub 2018 Nov 12.


Introduction: Discussions regarding withdrawal of life support after burn injury are challenging and complex. Often, providers may facilitate this discussion when the extent of injury makes survival highly unlikely or when the patient's condition deteriorates during resuscitation. Few papers have evaluated withdrawal of life support in burn patients. We therefore sought to determine the predictor of withdrawal of life support (WLS) in a regional burn center.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis of all burn patients from 2002 to 2012. Patient characteristics included age, gender, burn mechanism, percentage total body surface area (%TBSA) burned, presence of inhalation injury, hospital length of stay, and pre-existing comorbidities. Patients <17years of age and patients with unknown disposition were excluded. Patients were categorized into three cohorts: Alive till discharge (Alive), death by withdrawal of life support (WLS), or death despite ongoing life support (DLS). DLS patients were then excluded from the study population. Multivariate logistic regression was used to estimate predictors of WLS.

Results: 8,371 patients were included for analysis: 8134 Alive, 237 WLS. Females had an increased odd of WLS compared to males (OR 2.03, 95% CI 1.18-3.48; p=0.010). Based on higher CCI, patients with pre-existing comorbidities had an increased odd of WLS (OR 1.28, 95% CI 1.08-1.52; p=0.005). There was a significantly increased odds for WLS (OR 1.09, 95% CI 1.06-1.12; p<0.001) with increasing age. Similarly, there was an increased odd for WLS (OR 1.08, 95% CI 1.07-1.51; p<0.001) with increasing %TBSA. An increased odd of WLS (OR 2.47, 95% CI 1.05-5.78; p=0.038) was also found in patients with inhalation injury.

Conclusion: The decision to withdraw life support is a complex and difficult decision. Our current understanding of predictors of withdrawal of life support suggests that they mirror those factors which increase a patient's risk of mortality. Further research is needed to fully explore end-of-life decision making in regards to burn patients. The role of patient's sex, particularly women, in WLS decision making needs to be further explored.

Keywords: Burn injury; Comfort care; End of life decisions; Withdrawal of life support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Burns / therapy*
  • Burns, Inhalation / therapy
  • Comorbidity
  • Decision Making
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Life Support Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors
  • Terminal Care
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data
  • Withholding Treatment / statistics & numerical data*