Age-Appropriate Advance Care Planning in Children Diagnosed with a Life-Limiting Condition: A Systematic Review

Children (Basel). 2022 Jun 3;9(6):830. doi: 10.3390/children9060830.


Pediatric advance care planning (pACP) is an important strategy to support patient-centered care. It is known to be difficult, yet paramount, to involve the child in pACP while adjusting treatment to age and the corresponding stage of development. This systematic review was aimed to evaluate the age appropriateness of pACP interventions by assessing their characteristics, content, and evidence. CINAHL, Embase and MEDLINE were searched from 1 January 1998 to 31 August 2020 in order to identify peer-reviewed articles containing strategies and tools to facilitate pACP in both children (0-18 years) with life-limiting conditions and their families. An assessment of quality was performed using Cochrane tools and COREQ. The full protocol is available as PROSPERO CRD42020152243. Thirty-one articles describing 18 unique pACP tools were included. Most tools were developed for adolescents and young adults. In most cases, the interventions tried to assess the child's and family's preferences concerning their current and future hopes, wishes, and goals of the care. This was aimed to enhance communication about these preferences between children, their families, and health-care providers and to improve engagement in pACP. The relevance of an age-appropriate approach was mentioned in most articles, but this was mainly implicit. Seven articles implemented age-appropriate elements. Six factors influencing age appropriateness were identified. Tools to support pACP integrated age-appropriate elements to a very limited extent. They mainly focused on adolescents. The involvement of children of all ages may need a more comprehensive approach.

Keywords: adolescents; advance care planning; age-appropriate; cognitive functions; development; interventions; life-limiting conditions; palliative care; pediatrics; young adults.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research was funded by Porticus grant number 100035_I5258294.