Background

Recent data indicate that end-of-life management for patients affected by acute decompensated heart failure in cardiac intensive care units is aggressive, with late or no engagement of palliative care teams.

Objective

To assess current palliative care and end-of-life practices in a contemporary Italian multicenter registry of patients with cardiogenic shock due to acute decompensated heart failure.

Methods

A survey-based approach was used to collect data on palliative care and end-of-life management practices. The AltShock-2 registry enrolled patients with cardiogenic shock from 12 participating centers. A subset of 153 patients with cardiogenic shock due to acute decompensated heart failure enrolled between March 2020 and March 2023 was analyzed, with a focus on early engagement of palliative care teams and deactivation of implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs).

Results

“Do not resuscitate” orders were documented in patient records in only 5 of 12 centers (42%). Palliative care teams were engaged for 21 of 153 enrolled patients (13.7%). Among the 51 patients with ICDs, 6 of 17 patients who died (35%) had defibrillator deactivation. Of the 17 patients who died, 13 died in the hospital and 4 died within 6 months after discharge; 1 patient had ICD deactivation supported by palliative care services at home.

Conclusions

Therapy-limiting practices, including ICD deactivation, are not routine in the Italian centers participating in this study. The results emphasize the importance of integrating palliative care as a simultaneous process with intensive care to address the unmet needs of these patients and their families.

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