Mortality and Timing of Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Therapies After Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest: Two-Center Retrospective Pediatric Cohort Study

Pediatr Crit Care Med. 2024 Mar 1;25(3):241-249. doi: 10.1097/PCC.0000000000003412. Epub 2023 Nov 20.


Objectives: Pediatric out-of-hospital cardiac arrest (OHCA) is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality. Limited data exist to guide timing and method of neurologic prognostication after pediatric OHCA, making counseling on withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies (WLSTs) challenging. This study investigates the timing and mode of death after pediatric OHCA and factors associated with mortality. Additionally, this study explores delayed recovery after comatose examination on day 3 postarrest.

Design: This is a retrospective, observational study based on data collected from hospital databases and chart reviews.

Setting: Data collection occurred in two pediatric academic hospitals between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2020.

Patients: Patients were identified from available databases and electronic medical record queries for the International Classification of Diseases , 10th Edition (ICD-10) code I46.9 (Cardiac Arrest). Patient inclusion criteria included age range greater than or equal to 48 hours to less than 18 years, OHCA within 24 hours of admission, greater than or equal to 1 min of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and return-of-spontaneous circulation for greater than or equal to 20 min.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: One hundred thirty-five children (65% male) with a median age of 3 years (interquartile range 0.6-11.8) met inclusion criteria. Overall, 63 of 135 patients (47%) died before hospital discharge, including 34 of 63 patients (54%) after WLST. Among these, 20 of 34 patients underwent WLST less than or equal to 3 days postarrest, including 10 of 34 patients who underwent WLST within 1 day. WLST occurred because of poor perceived neurologic prognosis in all cases, although 7 of 34 also had poor perceived systemic prognosis. Delayed neurologic recovery from coma on day 3 postarrest was observed in 7 of 72 children (10%) who ultimately survived to discharge.

Conclusions: In our two centers between 2016 and 2020, more than half the deaths after pediatric OHCA occurred after WLST, and a majority of WLST occurred within 3 days postarrest. Additional research is warranted to determine optimal timing and predictors of neurologic prognosis after pediatric OHCA to better inform families during goals of care discussions.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation* / methods
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Coma / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest* / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies