Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Treatment Mediates Mortality in Patients With Intracerebral Hemorrhage With Impaired Consciousness

Stroke. 2021 Dec;52(12):3891-3898. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.121.035233. Epub 2021 Sep 29.


Background and purpose: Impaired level of consciousness (LOC) on presentation at hospital admission in patients with intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) may affect outcomes and the decision to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment (WOLST).

Methods: Patients with ICH were included across 121 Florida hospitals participating in the Florida Stroke Registry from 2010 to 2019. We studied the effect of LOC on presentation on in-hospital mortality (primary outcome), WOLST, ambulation status on discharge, hospital length of stay, and discharge disposition.

Results: Among 37 613 cases with ICH (mean age 71, 46% women, 61% White, 20% Black, 15% Hispanic), 12 272 (33%) had impaired LOC at onset. Compared with cases with preserved LOC, patients with impaired LOC were older (72 versus 70 years), more women (49% versus 45%), more likely to have aphasia (38% versus 16%), had greater ICH score (3 versus 1), greater risk of WOLST (41% versus 18%), and had an increased in-hospital mortality (32% versus 12%). In the multivariable-logistic regression with generalized estimating equations accounting for basic demographics, comorbidities, ICH severity, hospital size and teaching status, impaired LOC was associated with greater mortality (odds ratio, 3.7 [95% CI, 3.1-4.3], P<0.0001) and less likely discharged home or to rehab (odds ratio, 0.3 [95% CI, 0.3-0.4], P<0.0001). WOLST significantly mediated the effect of impaired LOC on mortality (mediation effect, 190 [95% CI, 152-229], P<0.0001). Early WOLST (<2 days) occurred among 51% of patients. A reduction in early WOLST was observed in patients with impaired LOC after the 2015 American Heart Association/American Stroke Association ICH guidelines recommending aggressive treatment and against early do-not-resuscitate.

Conclusions: In this large multicenter stroke registry, a third of ICH cases presented with impaired LOC. Impaired LOC was associated with greater in-hospital mortality and worse disposition at discharge, largely influenced by early decision to withhold or WOLST.

Keywords: aphasia; cerebral hemorrhage; consciousness; length of stay; logistic models.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / complications*
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / mortality*
  • Consciousness Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Discharge
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Registries
  • Resuscitation Orders
  • Withholding Treatment* / trends