OBJECTIVE:

Comparing demographic and clinical characteristics associated with receipt of palliative care (PC) among children who died in children’s hospitals to those who did not receive PC and understanding the trends in PC use.

METHODS:

This retrospective cohort study used the Pediatric Health Information System database. Children <18 years of age who died ≥5 days after admission to a Pediatric Health Information System hospital between January 1, 2001, and December 31, 2011 were included. Receipt of PC services was identified by the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision code for PC. Diagnoses were grouped using major diagnostic codes. International Classification of Diseases codes and clinical transaction codes were used to evaluate all interventions.

RESULTS:

This study evaluated 24 342 children. Overall, 4% had coding for PC services. This increased from 1% to 8% over the study years. Increasing age was associated with greater receipt of PC. Children with the PC code had fewer median days in the hospital (17 vs 21), received fewer invasive interventions, and fewer died in the ICU (60% vs 80%). Receipt of PC also varied by major diagnostic codes, with the highest proportion found among children with neurologic disease.

CONCLUSIONS:

Most pediatric patients who died in a hospital did not have documented receipt of PC. Children receiving PC are different from those who do not in many ways, including receipt of fewer procedures. Receipt of PC has increased over time; however, it remains low, particularly among neonates and those with circulatory diseases.

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