Dying with Acute Respiratory Failure or Multiple Organ System Failure with Sepsis

Published in: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, v. 48, no. 5, suppl., May 2000, p. S140-S145

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2000

by Emese Somogyi-Zalud, Zhenshao Zhong, Joanne Lynn, Neil V Dawson, Mary Beth Hamel, Norman A. Desbiens

BACKGROUND: The dying experience of patients with acute respiratory failure (ARF) or multiple organ system failure with sepsis (MOSF) has not been described. OBJECTIVES: To describe patients dying from ARF or MOSF, including demographic characteristics, baseline function and quality of life, symptoms, preferences, use of life-sustaining treatments, satisfaction with care, and family burden. DESIGN: A multicenter prospective study. SETTING: Five US teaching hospitals, in the Study to Understand Prognoses and Preferences for Outcomes and Risks of Treatments (SUPPORT). PARTICIPANTS: A total of 1295 adults who died during hospitalization for ARF or MOSF. MEASUREMENTS: Chart reviews and interviews with patients and surrogates. RESULTS: SUPPORT enrolled 2956 patients with ARF or MOSF, and 44% died during enrollment hospitalization. Quality of life before hospitalization was reported as fair by 87% of patients. The mean number of impairments in their baseline activities of daily living was 1.6. At the time of death, 79% had a DNR order and 31% had an order to withhold ventilator support. The average time from the DNR order to death was 2 days. Dying patients spent an average of 9 days on a ventilator. Surrogates indicated that one out of four patients died with severe pain and one out of three with severe confusion. Families of 42% of the patients who died reported one or more substantial burden. CONCLUSIONS: Patients in this study reported substantial functional impairments and reduced quality of life. Limitations to aggressive treatments were usually implemented only when death was imminent. Family impact and physical and emotional suffering were substantial.

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