Documentation on withdrawal of life support in adult patients in the intensive care unit [corrected] [published erratum appears in AM J CRIT CARE 2004 Sep;13(5):370]

Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


NLM Title Abbreviation

Am J Crit Care

Journal/Book/Conference Title

American Journal of Critical Care

PubMed ID


Start Page


End Page



BACKGROUND: Patients' charts have been a source of data for retrospective studies of the quality of end-of-life care. In the intensive care unit, most patients die after withdrawal of life support. Chart reviews of this process could be used not only to assess the quality of documentation but also to provide information for quality improvement and research. OBJECTIVE: To assess the documentation of end-of-life care of patients and their families by care providers in the intensive care unit. METHOD: Charts of 50 adult patients who died in the intensive care unit at a large midwestern hospital after initiation of withdrawal of life support (primarily mechanical ventilation) were reviewed. A form developed for the study was used for data collection. RESULTS: The initiation of the decision making for withdrawal was documented in all 50 charts. Sixteen charts (32%) had no information on advance directives. Eight charts (16%) had no documentation on resuscitation status. About two thirds of the charts documented nurses' participation during the withdrawal process; only one tenth documented physicians' participation. A total of 13 charts (26%) had no information on the time of initiation of the withdrawal process, and 11 (22%) had no documentation of medications administered for withdrawal. Thirty-seven charts (74%) had information on whether the patient was or was not extubated during withdrawal. CONCLUSION: Comprehensive documentation of end-of-life care is lacking.


Charting -- Evaluation, Euthanasia, Passive, Adult, Advance Directives, Aged, Aged, 80 and Over, Convenience Sample, Decision Making, Clinical, Descriptive Research, Descriptive Statistics, Family Role, Female, Intensive Care Units, Interrater Reliability, Male, Medical Records, Middle Age, Midwestern United States, Nursing Role, Physician's Role, Professional-Family Relations, Record Review, Research Instruments, Resuscitation Orders, Retrospective Design, Human

Published Article/Book Citation

American Journal of Critical Care, 13:4 (2004) pp.328-334.

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