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Crit Care Med. 2000 May;28(5):1590-4.

Attitudes toward limitation of support in a pediatric intensive care unit.

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Department of Pediatrics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA.



To prospectively determine opinions of members of a pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) team regarding the appropriateness of aggressive care. The types of support that caregivers sought to limit and their reasons for wanting these limits were collected over time.


Prospective survey of caregiver opinions.


PICU in an academic tertiary care children's hospital.


A total of 68 intensive care nurses, 11 physicians attending in the PICU, 10 critical care and anesthesia fellows, and 24 anesthesia and pediatric residents.




During a 6-month period, 503 patients were admitted to the PICU. Within this time period, 52.4% of all deaths were preceded by limitation of support, with 100% of noncardiac surgical deaths preceded by limitation of medical interventions. At least one caregiver wished to limit care for 63 of these patients (12.5%). When caregivers wished to limit support they most frequently wished to limit invasive modes of support such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (94%) and hemodialysis (83%). The ethical rationales identified most often for wishing to limit support were burden vs. benefit (88%) and qualitative futility (83%). Preadmission quality of life was cited less frequently (50%). Caregivers were less likely to limit care on the basis of quality of life. Nurses and physicians in the PICU were very similar to each other in the types of support they thought should be limited and their ethical rationales.


When making decisions about whether or not to limit care for a patient, caregivers were more likely to rely on the perceived benefit to the patient than preadmission quality of life.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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