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Palliative care in the trauma ICU

O’Connell, Kathleen; Maier, Ronald

Current Opinion in Critical Care: December 2016 - Volume 22 - Issue 6 - p 584–590
doi: 10.1097/MCC.0000000000000357
TRAUMA: Edited by Kjetil Sunde and Christina Gaarder

Purpose of review The benefits of palliative care for critically ill patients are well recognized, yet acceptance into surgical culture is lagging. With the increasing proportion of geriatric trauma patients, integration of palliative medicine within daily intensive care services to facilitate goal-concordant care is imperative.

Recent findings Misconceptions of palliative medicine as it applies to trauma patients linger among trauma surgeons and many continue to practice without routine consultation of a palliative care service. Aggressive end-of-life care does not correlate with an improved family perception of medical care received near death. Additionally, elderly patients near the end of life often prefer palliative treatments over life-extending therapy, and their treatment preferences are often not achieved. A new geriatric-specific prognosis calculator estimates the risk of mortality after trauma, which is useful in starting goals of care discussions with older patients and their families.

Summary Shifting our quality focus from 30-day mortality rates to measurements of symptom control and achievement of patient treatment preferences will prioritize patient beneficence and autonomy. Ownership of surgical palliative care as a service provided by acute care surgeons will ensure that our patients with incurable injury and illness will receive optimal patient-centered care.

Department of Surgery, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA

Correspondence to Ronald Maier, MD, FACS, FRCS Ed (Hon), Department of Surgery, University of Washington, Surgeon-in-Chief, Box 359796, Harborview Medical Center, 325 Ninth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104-2499, USA. Tel: +1 206 744 3564; fax: +1 206 744 8582; e-mail:

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