Investment in advanced palliative care planning has the potential to improve the quality of care for vascular surgery patients, according to investigators from Oregon Health and Science University, Portland.
Dale G. Wilson, MD, and his colleagues performed a retrospective review of electronic medical records for 111 patients, who died while on the vascular surgery service at the OHSU Hospital during 2005-2014.
Almost three-quarters (73%) of patients were transitioned to palliative care; of those, 14% presented with an advanced directive, and 28% received a palliative care consultation (JAMA Surg. 2017;152:183-90.).
While palliative care services are increasing in hospitals, accounting for 4% of annual hospital admissions in 2012 according to the study, they are not implemented consistently. “Many teams from various specialties care for patients at end of life; however, we still do not know what prompts end-of-life discussions,” Dr. Wilson said. “There is still no consensus on when to involve palliative services in the care of critically ill patients.”
While the decision to advise a consultation is “variable and physician dependent,” the type of treatment required may help identify when consultations are appropriate.
Of the 14 patients who did not choose comfort care, 11 (79%) required CPR. Additionally, all had to be taken to the operating room and required mechanical ventilation.
Of 81 patients who chose palliative care, 31 did so despite potential medical options. These patients were older – average age, 77 years, as compared with 68 years for patients who did not choose comfort care – with 8 of the 31 (26%) presenting an advanced directive, compared with only 7 of 83 patients (8%) for those who did not receive palliative care.
Dr. Wilson and his colleagues found that patients who chose palliative care were more likely to have received a palliative care consultation, as well: 10 of 31 patients who chose comfort care received a consultation, as opposed to 1 of 83 who chose comfort care but did not receive a consultation.
The nature of the vascular surgery service calls for early efforts to gather information regarding patients’ views on end-of-life care, Dr. Wilson said, noting that 73% of patients studied were admitted emergently and 87% underwent surgery, leaving little time for patients to express their wishes.
“Because the events associated with withdrawal of care are often not anticipated, we argue that all vascular surgical patients should have an advance directive, and perhaps, those at particular high risk should have a preoperative palliative care consultation,” Dr. Wilson wrote.
Limitations to the study included the data abstraction, which was performed by a single unblinded physician. Researchers also gathered patients’ reasons for transitioning to comfort care retrospectively.