NEW ORLEANS – When initiated early, meeting certain end-of-life criteria, results of a recent randomized clinical trial suggest.
The rate of in-hospital mortality was lower for critical care patients receiving an early consultation, compared with those who received palliative care initiated according to usual standards in the randomized, controlled trial, described at the annual meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians.
In addition, more health care surrogates were chosen in the hospital when palliative care medicine was involved earlier, according to investigator, fellow in pulmonary critical care at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.
Taken together, Dr. Helgeson said, those findings suggest the importance of getting palliative care involved “very early, while the patient can still make decisions.”
“There are a lot of things that can get in the way of adequate conversations, and that’s when the palliative care team can come in,” Dr. Helgeson said in an interview.
This study is the first reported to date to look at the impact on patient care outcomes specifically within 24 hours of medical ICU admission, according to Dr. Helgeson and coinvestigators
In their randomized study, patients were eligible if they met at least one of several criteria, including advanced age (80 years or older), late-stage dementia, post–cardiac arrest, metastatic cancer, end-stage organ failure, recurrent ICU admissions, an APACHE II score of 14 or higher, a SOFA score of 9 or higher, preexisting functional dependency, or consideration for a tracheostomy or permanent feeding tube.
Of 29 patients randomized, 14 received early palliative care, and 15 received standard palliative care, which was defined as starting “whenever the treating team deems (it) is appropriate,” according to the published abstract.
Hospital mortality occurred in none of the patients in the early palliative care group, versus six in the usual care group (P = .01), Dr. Helgeson and colleagues found. Moreover, seven health care surrogates were chosen in hospital in the early palliative care group, versus none in the usual care group (P less than .01).
Length of stay in the ICU or in hospital did not vary by treatment group, according to the investigators.
About one-fifth of deaths in the United States take place in or around ICU admissions, according to the investigators, who noted that those admissions can result in changing goals from cure to comfort – though sometimes too late.
Dr. Helgeson and coauthors disclosed that they had no relationships relevant to this research presentation.
SOURCE: Helgeson S, et al. CHEST 2019.