Purpose of review
Children with medical or surgical critical illness or injury require skillful attention to physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs, whereas their families need support and guidance in facing life-threatening or life-changing events and gut-wrenching decisions. This article reviews current evidence and best practices for integrating palliative care into the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU), with a focus on surgical patients.
Palliative care is best integrated in a tiered approach, with primary palliative care provided by the PICU and surgical providers for all patients and families, including basic symptom management, high-quality communication, and end-of-life care. Secondary and tertiary levels of care involve unit or team-based ‘champions’ with additional expertise, and subspecialty palliative care teams, respectively. PICU and surgical providers should be able to provide primary palliative care, to identify patients and families for whom a palliative care consult would be helpful, and should be comfortable introducing the concept of palliative care to families.
This review provides a framework and tools to enable PICU and surgical providers to integrate palliative care best practices into patient and family care.