Background: The use of formalized criteria (or triggers) for palliative care services (PCSs) has been associated with increased use of PCSs in the intensive care unit (ICU). Objective: To explore the utility/validity of frailty as a trigger for providing PCSs. Design: This is a prospective cohort study. Setting/Subjects: Older adults (age ≥50 years) admitted to ICUs were enrolled. Measurements: We measured frailty using the Clinical Frailty Scale. We reviewed electronic health records for the presence/absence of six evidence-based triggers, the use and quality of specialty palliative care (SPC), and markers of primary palliative care (PPC). We used descriptive statistics to describe the differences in PPC, SPC, and six-month mortality by frailty and by the presence/absence of triggers. Results: In a study population of 302 older adults, mean (standard deviation) age 67.2 years (10.5), 151 (50%) were frail and 105 (34.8%) had ≥1 trigger for PCSs. Of the 151 (55.6%) frail patients, 84 had no triggers for PCSs, despite a 46.4% six-month mortality in this group. Patients with ≥1 trigger had higher rates of SPC than those without (39.1% vs. 18.3%, p < 0.001); frail patients also had higher SPC than nonfrail patients (32.5% vs. 18.5%, p = 0.006). Patients with ≥1 trigger had higher rates of PPC than those without (66.7% vs. 44.2%, p < 0.001); no statistically significant difference in PPC was found by frailty (56.3% vs. 47.7%, p = 0.134). Conclusion: The rates of PCSs and six-month mortality by frailty are consistent with frailty being a valid trigger for PCSs in ICUs; the high prevalence of frailty relative to triggers suggests that ways to increase PCSs would be needed.
- critical illness
- older adult
- palliative care
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine