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J Formos Med Assoc. 2010 Mar;109(3):201-8. doi: 10.1016/S0929-6646(10)60043-5.

Survey of do-not-resuscitate orders in surgical intensive care units.

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Department of Surgery, National Taiwan University Hospital, Taipei, Taiwan.



End-of-life decisions are always difficult and complex, especially in the surgical setting. This study examines the epidemiology of do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders, and the clinical factors influencing DNR consent. The impact of DNR on treatment and resource use in the surgical intensive-care unit (ICU) is also assessed.


This retrospective observational study was performed at National Taiwan University Hospital, a tertiary medical center in Taipei. A total of 14,698 patients were admitted to the surgical ICUs between January 2003 and December 2006. Of these, 13,825 (94.1%) survived to ICU discharge and 873 (5.9%) died. Of those that died, 278 (1.9% of total patients) went home to die due to terminal stage illness and 595 (4.0 % of total patients) died in the ICU. All mortality patients were included in this study.


Yearly DNR rates were all above 65%. The average interval from ICU admission to DNR consent remained stable at 11-13 days, but the interval from DNR consent to death increased over the study period, from 2.0 to 3.5 days. Discussion over DNR was mainly initiated by intensivists. Multivariate logistic regression analysis found that older age (odds ratio, 1.010; p = 0.017) was significantly associated with DNR consent. DNR patients had longer ICU stays, lower fraction of inspired oxygen, and less inotropic infusion, dialysis, transfusion, laboratory examination, and chest radiography, but more use of sedative drugs, analgesics, and nutrition support at the time of death. After DNR, the use of advanced antibiotics, chest radiography, laboratory examination, and transfusion decreased. Inotropic infusion, however, continued to significantly increase.


Although DNR was common in our surgical ICU patients, this request was signed late in the ICU course, when therapeutic options had been exhausted. Early initiation of DNR discussion should be promoted to improve end-of-life care and reduce futile treatments in the ICU.

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