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Semin Cardiothorac Vasc Anesth. 2013 Dec;17(4):240-8. doi: 10.1177/1089253213506121. Epub 2013 Sep 26.

The distinct role of palliative care in the surgical intensive care unit.

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  • 11Western University, London, ON, Canada.


Palliative care is expanding its role into the surgical intensive care units (SICU). Embedding palliative philosophies of care into SICUs has considerable potential to improve the quality of care, especially in complex patient care scenarios. This article will explore palliative care, identifying patients/families who benefit from palliative care services, how palliative care complements SICU care, and opportunities to integrate palliative care into the SICU. Palliative care enhances the SICU team's ability to recognize pain and distress; establish the patient's wishes, beliefs, and values and their impact on decision making; develop flexible communication strategies; conduct family meetings and establish goals of care; provide family support during the dying process; help resolve team conflicts; and establish reasonable goals for life support and resuscitation. Educational opportunities to improve end-of-life management skills are outlined. It is necessary to appreciate how traditional palliative and surgical cultures may influence the integration of palliative care into the SICU. Palliative care can provide a significant, "value added" contribution to the care of seriously ill SICU patients.


communication; decision making; end of life; family meetings; pain and symptom; palliative care; patient preferences; surgical ICU

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