Journal of the American Heart Association 2017 09 226(9) pii e006881
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) are commonly implanted in older patients, including those with multiple comorbidities. There are few prospective studies assessing the clinical course and end-of-life circumstances for these patients.
METHODS AND RESULTS
We prospectively followed 51 patients with ICDs for up to 18 months to longitudinally assess in terms of (1) advance care planning, (2) health status, (3) healthcare utilization, and (4) end-of-life circumstances through quarterly phone interviews and electronic medical record review. The mean age was 71.1±8.3, 74.5% were men, and 19.6% were non-white. Congestive heart failure was predominant (82.4%), as was chronic kidney disease (92%). At baseline, a total of 12% of subjects met criteria for major depression, and 78.4% met criteria for mild cognitive impairment. From this initial study cohort, 76% survived to 18 months and completed all follow-up interviews, 18% died, and 19% withdrew or were lost to follow-up. Though living will completion and healthcare proxy assignment were common (cumulative outcome at 18 months 88% and 98%, respectively), discussions of prognosis were uncommon (baseline, 9.8%; by 18 months, 22.7%), as were conversations regarding ICD deactivation (baseline, 15.7%; by 18 months, 25.5%). Five decedents with available data received shocks in the days immediately prior to death, including 3 of whom ultimately had their ICDs deactivated prior to death.
We demonstrated the feasibility of prospective enrollment and follow-up of older, vulnerable ICD patients. Early findings suggest a high burden of cognitive and psychological impairment, poor communication with providers, and frequent shocks at the end of life. These findings will inform the design of a larger cohort study designed to further explore the experiences of living and dying with an ICD in this important patient population.