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J Pediatr. 1993 Oct;123(4):534-8.

No resuscitation and withdrawal of therapy in a neonatal and a pediatric intensive care unit in Canada.

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Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, University of Alberta Hospital, Edmonton, Canada.



To compare and contrast the modes of death in a neonatal (NICU) and a pediatric (PICU) intensive care unit.


Retrospective analysis of patient records.


All newborn infants and children (< 17 years of age) who died in the NICU and PICU at the University of Alberta Hospitals, Edmonton, between Jan. 1, 1990, to Dec. 31, 1991.


The mortality rate in the PICU was 8.7% (73/839) compared with 5.6% (75/1333) in the NICU (p = 0.007). Withdrawal of therapy was the most common cause of death in both units and occurred more commonly in the NICU (NICU = 69% vs PICU = 34%; p = 0.01). There were significantly more deaths as a result of failed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the PICU than in the NICU (29% vs 13%; p = 0.046). Death after no-CPR orders occurred with equal frequency in both units (NICU 17%; PICU 15%). Brain death accounted for 22% (16/87) of PICU deaths; no infant in the NICU was declared brain dead (p < 0.05). When deaths resulting from brain death and failed CPR were excluded, there was no significant difference between the two units regarding withdrawal of therapy (NICU 80% vs PICU 69%) and no-CPR orders (NICU 20% vs PICU 30%).


This study confirms that both withdrawal of therapy and no-CPR orders are part of current clinical practice in both the NICU and PICU settings. The ethical foundations and implications of these practices need further elaboration.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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