Background: Severe brain hemorrhage/infarction and cardiac arrest constitute the most critical situations leading to poor neurological prognosis. Characterization of these patients is required to offer successful end-of-life care, but actual practice is affected by multiple confounding factors, including ethicolegal issues, particular in Japan and Asia. The aim of this study is to evaluate the clinical courses of patients with severe brain damage and to assess the preference of end-of-life care for these patients in Japanese hospitals. Methods: A retrospective observational study was conducted between 2008 and 2018. All intracranial hemorrhage/infarction and cardiac arrest out-patients (n = 510) who were admitted to our two affiliated hospitals and survived but with poor neurologic outcomes were included. Demographic characteristics as well as prognosis and treatment policies were also assessed. Results: Patients were divided into two categories; cases with absent brainstem reflex (BSR) (BSR[-]) and those with preserved BSR (BSR[+]). The survival rate was higher and the length of hospitalization was longer in patients with BSR[+] than in those with BSR[-]. Among three life-sustaining policies (i.e., aggressive treatment, withdrawal of treatment, and withholding of treatment), withholding of treatment was adopted to most patients. In BSR[-], the proportion of three treatment policies performed at the final decision did not differ from that at the initial diagnosis on neurological status (p = 0.432). In contrast, this proportion tended to be altered in BSR[+] (p = 0.072), with a decreasing tendency of aggressive treatment and a modest increasing tendency of withdrawal of treatment. Furthermore, the requests from patients’ families to withdraw life-sustaining treatment, including discontinuation of mechanical ventilation, increased, but actual implementation of withdrawal by physicians was less than half of the requests. Conclusions: BSR constitutes a crucial determinant of mortality and length of hospitalization in comatose patients with severe brain damage. Although the number of withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment tends to increase over time in BSR[+] patients, there are many more requests from patients’ families for withdrawal. Since physicians has a tendency to desist from withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, more in-depth communication between medical staff and patients’ families will facilitate mutual understanding over ethicolegal and religious issues and may thus improve end-of-life care.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- 醫藥 (全部)