Treatment Limitation Decisions in Critically Ill Patients With a Malignancy on the Intensive Care Unit

Esther van der Zee, Jelle Epker, Hanneke Bakker, DD Benoit, Erwin Kompanje

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Background: Treatment limitation decisions (TLDs) on the ICU can be challenging, especially in patients with a malignancy. Up-to-date literature regarding TLDs in critically ill patients with a malignancy admitted to the ICU is scarce. The aim was to compare the incidence of written TLDs between patients with an active malignancy, patients with a malignancy in their medical history (complete remission, CR) and patients without a malignancy admitted unplanned to the ICU. Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study in a large university hospital in the Netherlands. We identified all unplanned admissions to the ICU in 2017 and categorized the patients in 3 groups: patients with an active malignancy (study population), with CR and without a malignancy. A TLD was defined as a written instruction not to perform life-saving treatments, such as CPR in case of cardiac arrest. A multivariate binary logistic regression analysis was used to identify whether having a malignancy was associated with TLDs. Results: Of the 1046 unplanned admissions, 125 patients (12%) had an active malignancy and 76 (7.3%) patients had CR. The incidence of written TLDs in these subgroups were 37 (29.6%) and 20 (26.3%). Age (OR 1.03; 95% CI 1.01 -1.04), SOFA score at ICU admission (OR 1.11; 95% CI 1.05 -1.18) and having an active malignancy (OR 1.75; 95% CI 1.04-2.96) compared to no malignancy were independently associated with written TLDs. SOFA scores on the day of the TLD were not significantly different in patients with and without a malignancy. Conclusions: This study shows that the presence of an underlying malignancy is independently associated with written TLDs during ICU stay. Patients with CR were not at risk of more written TLDs. Whether this higher incidence of TLDs in patients with a malignancy is justified, is at least questionable and should be evaluated in future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-50
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Intensive Care Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

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  • EMC OR-01


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