Development of a Perinatal Palliative Care Model at a Level II Perinatal Center Supported by a Pediatric Palliative Care Network

Front Pediatr. 2021 Jan 15:8:574397. doi: 10.3389/fped.2020.574397. eCollection 2020.


Objective: To describe the model build up to take care of fetuses and newborns eligible to perinatal palliative care (PnPC) followed in an Italian II level perinatal center. Methods: Retrospective chart review of all fetuses and newborn infants eligible to PnPC admitted to level II perinatal center within a 4 years period. Results: Forty-five of 848 infants (0.5%) referred to II level NICU were eligible to PnPC. Twenty-seven percentage had fetal diagnosis. Twenty percentage were preterm infants at the limit of viability, 35% were newborns with life limiting or life threatening disease diagnosed in utero or at the postnatal ward, 45% were newborns not responding to intensive care intervention with high health care needs or medical complexity. Fifty-seven percentage of neonates admitted to NICU died before discharge, while 16 (35% of population considered) were discharged home. Median age at death was 4 days after birth, and delivery room death immediately after birth occurred in six patients (13%). Conclusions: Despite the paucity of our population and the high variability in disease trajectories the perinatal palliative care program build up in our region provides a reproducible method for a structured taking in charge of fetuses and neonates eligible to PnPC and their families, from the time of diagnosis to bereavement, in both outpatient and inpatient settings.

Keywords: fetal diagnosis; life limiting conditions; life threatening conditions; pediatric palliative care; perinatal palliative care.