Objective To determine whether trends toward decreasing use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation at the time of death and increasing frequency of forgoing life-sustaining treatment had continued, as few studies quantifying mode of death for hospitalized infants have been conducted in the last 10 years.
Design Retrospective descriptive study.
Setting Regional referral neonatal intensive care unit.
Participants Infants who died from January 1, 1999, to December 31, 2008. Infants were categorized into following categories: (1) very preterm (≤32 weeks' gestation); (2) congenital anomaly; and (3) other.
Main Outcome Measures The primary outcome was level of clinical service provided at the end of life (care withheld, care withdrawn, or full resuscitation).
Results For 10 years, 414 neonatal patients died. Of these, 61.6% had care withdrawn, 20.8% had care withheld, and 17.6% received cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The percentage of deaths that followed withholding of treatment rose by 1% per year (P = .01). Most of this change was accounted for by withholding of therapy in the very premature group.
Conclusion During the 10-year period, the primary mode of death in this regional referral neonatal intensive care unit was withdrawal of life-sustaining support. When death is imminent or medical care is considered futile, the approach is thought to provide a peaceful, controlled setting. Significant increase in withholding of care suggests improved recognition of medical futility and desire to provide a peaceful death.