The aim of our study was to assess anxiety and depression in patients’ relatives after a decision of withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatments.
We conducted a prospective observational multicenter study in three university hospitals’ emergency departments. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) was assessed on the relatives of patients admitted in emergency departments 3 days and 21 days after the decision of withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatments.
Among the 109 patients with a decision of withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatments, 88 relatives were included and 74 (67, 8%) completed the 21-day follow up. Among those, 14 (18.9%) and 13 (17.6%) displayed symptoms of anxiety and depression at 3 days, respectively. After 21 days, symptoms anxiety and depression were still present in the same way for nine (12.2%) of the relatives. The median total HADS score was 13.5 [interquartile range (IQR): 8–16] at 3 days and 10 [IQR: 5–17] at 21 days. The symptoms of depression at 21 days were more frequent for the relatives of patients who died at 21 days (P = 0.03).
We found symptoms of anxiety and depression in relatives after decisions of withholding and withdrawing life-sustaining treatments in emergency departments, which persist at 21 days. Further studies are needed to support these results and to search the relatives at risk to develop these symptoms.