Neurocritical Care

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 130–135

Withdrawal of Life-Sustaining Treatment in a Mixed Intensive Care Unit: Most Common in Patients with Catastropic Brain Injury

  • Martijn A. Verkade
  • Jelle L. Epker
  • Mariska D. Nieuwenhoff
  • Jan Bakker
  • Erwin J. O. Kompanje
Ethical Matters



To determine the incidence of withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment in various groups of patients in a mixed intensive care unit (ICU).


Observational retrospective. Setting: University hospital mixed medical, neurological, neurosurgical and surgical ICU.


All patients admitted to the ICU between 1 November 2006, and 31 October 2007.


1,353 Patients were admitted to our ICU between 1 November 2006, and 31 October 2007. During this period, 218 (16.1%) patients died in the ICU, 10 of which were excluded for further analysis. In 174 (83.7%) of the remaining 208 patients, life-sustaining treatment was withdrawn. Severe CNS injury was in 86 patients (49.4%) being the reason for withdrawal of treatment, followed by MODS in 67 patients (38.5%). Notably, treatment was withdrawn in almost all patients (95%) who died of CNS failure. Patients who died in the ICU were significantly older, more often admitted for medical than surgical reasons, and had higher SOFA and APACHE II scores compared with those who survived their ICU stay. Also, SOFA scores before discharge/death were significantly different from admission scores. Of the 1,135 patients who survived their ICU stay, only 51 patients (4.5%) died within 28 days after ICU discharge.


In 83, 7% of patients who die in the mixed ICU life-sustaining treatment is withdrawn. Severe cerebral damage was the leading reason to withdraw life-sustaining treatment.


Intensive care End-of-life Withdrawal of treatment Subarachnoid haemorrhage Traumatic brain injury 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martijn A. Verkade
    • 1
  • Jelle L. Epker
    • 1
  • Mariska D. Nieuwenhoff
    • 1
  • Jan Bakker
    • 1
  • Erwin J. O. Kompanje
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Intensive Care MedicineErasmus University Medical Center RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands

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