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BackgroundIn patients with severe brain injury, withdrawal of life-sustaining measures (WLSM) is common in intensive care units (ICU). WLSM constitutes a dilemma: instituting WLSM too early could result in death despite the possibility of an acceptable functional outcome, whereas delaying WLSM could unnecessarily burden patients, families, clinicians, and hospital resources. We aimed to describe the occurrence and timing of WLSM, and factors associated with timing of WLSM in European ICUs in patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI).MethodsThe CENTER-TBI Study is a prospective multi-center cohort study. For the current study, patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) admitted to the ICU and aged 16 or older were included. Occurrence and timing of WLSM were documented. For the analyses, we dichotomized timing of WLSM in early (ResultsA total of 2022 patients aged 16 or older were admitted to the ICU. ICU mortality was 13% (n = 267). Of these, 229 (86%) patients died after WLSM, and were included in the analyses. The occurrence of WLSM varied between regions ranging from 0% in Eastern Europe to 96% in Northern Europe. In 51% of the patients, WLSM was early. Patients in the early WLSM group had a lower maximum therapy intensity level (TIL) score than patients in the later WLSM group (median of 5 versus 10) The strongest independent variables associated with early WLSM were one unreactive pupil (odds ratio (OR) 4.0, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.3-12.4) or two unreactive pupils (OR 5.8, CI 2.6-13.1) compared to two reactive pupils, and an Injury Severity Score (ISS) if over 41 (OR per point above 41 = 1.1, CI 1.0-1.1). Timing of WLSM was not significantly associated with region or center.ConclusionWLSM occurs early in half of the patients, mostly in patients with severe TBI affecting brainstem reflexes who were severely injured. We found no regional or center influences in timing of WLSM. Whether WLSM is always appropriate or may contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy requires further research and argues for reluctance to institute WLSM early in case of any doubt on prognosis.

Original publication

DOI

10.1007/s00134-021-06484-1

Type

Journal article

Journal

Intensive care medicine

Publication Date

10/2021

Volume

47

Pages

1115 - 1129

Addresses

Department of Public Health, Erasmus University Medical Center, P.O. Box 2040, 3000 CA, Rotterdam, The Netherlands. e.vanveen.1@erasmusmc.nl.

Keywords

CENTER-TBI investigators and participants, Humans, Glasgow Coma Scale, Cohort Studies, Prospective Studies, Intensive Care Units, Brain Injuries, Traumatic