Indian Journal of Palliative Care
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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 26  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 352--357

Deaths in the emergency department: An assessment of patient's end-of-life trajectory and quality of care

1 Department of Oncology and Liver Transplant, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
2 Adult Emergency Department, Penn State Health Milton S Hershey Medical Center, Pennsylvania, USA

Correspondence Address:
Kim Sadler
King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Centre, P. O. Box: 3354, Riyadh 11211
Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/IJPC.IJPC_206_19

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Background: A considerable proportion of deaths occur in the emergency department (ED), and yet a palliative care approach is not well integrated. End-of-life patients often either receive invasive care, or their care is neglected due to being perceived as not being “acutely” ill. While a small proportion of these deaths are of an unpredictable nature, most have identifiable dying trajectories: (a) advanced cancer, (b) organ failure, (c) chronic frailty, and (d) sudden death. Aims: This study aims (1) to determine the incidence, nature and illness trajectory of deaths in the ED; (2) to examine to which extent end of life discussions took place; (3) to analyze the aggressiveness of the care; and (4) to determine if palliative care services were being consulted. Methods: This retrospective study was conducted in a large tertiary hospital and cancer center in Saudi Arabia over a 1 year period. Data collection included demographics, clinical presentation, end-of-life care, and palliative care involvement. Results: Our study included 103 patients. Cancer was the main diagnosis (45.7%). Deaths were related to advanced cancer (45.6%), followed by organ failure (29.1%), sudden death (13.6%), and chronic frailty (11.7%,). 35.9% had a documented Do-Not-Attempt-Resuscitation (DNAR) status prior to admission. 51.5% received aggressive treatments. Palliative care was consulted for 19.4% of patients, among which 50% of referrals occurred 1 day prior to death. Conclusions: End-of-life care discussions tend to occur late in the disease trajectory; a number of patients are subjected to aggressive treatments, and palliative care services remain underutilized. An early, integrated and collaborative approach is warranted to address the challenges of end of life care.


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