The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends palliative care for children at the diagnosis of serious illness. Yet few children who die receive specialty palliative care consultation, and when it is provided, palliative care consultation tends to occur after >75% of the time from diagnosis until death. Focusing on the timing of palliative consultation in relation to the date of diagnosis, we evaluated factors predicting earlier receipt of pediatric palliative care in a cohort of decedents.


We retrospectively identified patients diagnosed with a life-limiting disease who died at our hospital in 2015–2017 after at least 1 inpatient palliative medicine consultation. Our primary outcome was time from palliative-qualifying diagnosis to earliest receipt of specialty palliative care. A survival analysis was used to describe factors associated with earlier receipt of palliative care.


The analysis included 180 patients (median age at diagnosis <1 month [interquartile range (IQR): 0–77]). The median time to first palliative consultation was 7 days after diagnosis (IQR: 2–63), compared with a median of 50 days between diagnosis and death (IQR: 7–210). On the multivariable analysis, palliative consultation occurred earlier for patients who had cardiovascular diagnoses, had private insurance, and were of African American race.


In a cohort of decedents at our institution, palliative consultation occurred much earlier than has been previously reported. We also identify factors associated with delayed receipt of palliative care among children who are dying that reveal further opportunities to improve access to specialty palliative care.

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