Variability of Prognostic Communication in Critically Ill Neurologic Patients: A Pilot Multicenter Mixed-Methods Study
Internal Medicine; Pulmonary/Critical Care Medicine; Medicine
Importance: Withdrawal-of-life-sustaining treatments (WOLST) rates vary widely among critically ill neurologic patients (CINPs) and cannot be solely attributed to patient and family characteristics. Research in general critical care has shown that clinicians prognosticate to families with high variability. Little is known about how clinicians disclose prognosis to families of CINPs, and whether any associations exist with WOLST.
Objectives: Primary: to demonstrate feasibility of audio-recording clinician-family meetings for CINPs at multiple centers and characterize how clinicians communicate prognosis during these meetings. Secondary: to explore associations of 1) clinician, family, or patient characteristics with clinicians' prognostication approaches and 2) prognostication approach and WOLST.
Design setting and participants: Forty-three audio-recorded clinician-family meetings during which prognosis was discussed from seven U.S. centers for 39 CINPs with 88 family members and 27 clinicians.
Main outcomes and measures: Two investigators qualitatively coded transcripts using inductive methods (inter-rater reliability > 80%) to characterize how clinicians prognosticate. We then applied univariate and multivariable multinomial and binomial logistic regression.
Results: Clinicians used four distinct prognostication approaches: Authoritative (21%; recommending treatments without discussing values and preferences); Informational (23%; disclosing just the prognosis without further discussions); advisory (42%; disclosing prognosis followed by discussion of values and preferences); and responsive (14%; eliciting values and preferences, then disclosing prognosis). Before adjustment, prognostication approach was associated with center (p < 0.001), clinician specialty (neurointensivists vs non-neurointensivists; p = 0.001), patient age (p = 0.08), diagnosis (p = 0.059), and meeting length (p = 0.03). After adjustment, only clinician specialty independently predicted prognostication approach (p = 0.027). WOLST decisions occurred in 41% of patients and were most common under the advisory approach (56%). WOLST was more likely in older patients (p = 0.059) and with more experienced clinicians (p = 0.07). Prognostication approach was not independently associated with WOLST (p = 0.198).
Conclusions and relevance: It is feasible to audio-record sensitive clinician-family meetings about CINPs in multiple ICUs. We found that clinicians prognosticate with high variability. Our data suggest that larger studies are warranted in CINPs to examine the role of clinicians' variable prognostication in WOLST decisions.
Keywords: brain injuries; communication; critical care; decision-making; family; goals; prognosis; treatment outcome.
Ge C, Goss AL, Crawford S, Goostrey K, Buddadhumaruk P, Shields AM, Hough CL, Lo B, Carson SS, Steingrub J, White DB, Muehlschlegel S. Variability of Prognostic Communication in Critically Ill Neurologic Patients: A Pilot Multicenter Mixed-Methods Study. Crit Care Explor. 2022 Feb 21;4(2):e0640. doi: 10.1097/CCE.0000000000000640.