Very few studies assessed the association between Intensive Care Unit (ICU) triage decisions and mortality. The aim of this study was to assess whether an association could be found between 30-day mortality, and ICU admission consultation conditions and triage decisions.
We conducted a retrospective cohort study in two large referral university hospitals in the Netherlands. We identified all adult cancer patients for whom ICU admission was requested from 2016 to 2019. Via a multivariable logistic regression analysis, we assessed the association between 30-day mortality, and ICU admission consultation conditions and triage decisions.
Of the 780 cancer patients for whom ICU admission was requested, 332 patients (42.6%) were considered ‘too well to benefit’ from ICU admission, 382 (49%) patients were immediately admitted to the ICU and 66 patients (8.4%) were considered ‘too sick to benefit’ according to the consulting intensivist(s). The 30-day mortality in these subgroups was 30.1%, 36.9% and 81.8%, respectively. In the patient group considered ‘too well to benefit’, 258 patients were never admitted to the ICU and 74 patients (9.5% of the overall study population, 22.3% of the patients ‘too well to benefit’) were admitted to the ICU after a second ICU admission request (delayed ICU admission). Thirty-day mortality in these groups was 25.6% and 45.9%. After adjustment for confounders, ICU consultations during off-hours (OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.09-2.38, p-value 0.02) and delayed ICU admission (OR 1.83, 95% CI 1.00-3.33, p-value 0.048 compared to “ICU admission”) were independently associated with 30-day mortality.
The ICU denial rate in our study was high (51%). Sixty percent of the ICU triage decisions in cancer patients were made during off-hours, and 22.3% of the patients initially considered “too well to benefit” from ICU admission were subsequently admitted to the ICU. Both decisions during off-hours and a delayed ICU admission were associated with an increased risk of death at 30 days. Our study suggests that in cancer patients, ICU triage decisions should be discussed during on-hours, and ICU admission policy should be broadened, with a lower admission threshold for critically ill cancer patients.

© 2021. The Author(s).