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Last updated on April 19, 2014 at 21:20 EDT

Do-Not-Resuscitate = Worse Outcome?

April 20, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Surgical patients with do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders appear to be at a higher risk for poor surgical outcomes, according to a new study.

“Do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders preclude the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in a clinically unresponsive, pulseless patient,” according to background information provided by the authors. Approximately 70 percent of patients in the United States die with a DNR order. “Patients with a DNR order consent to a variety of surgical procedures ranging from palliative surgery to aggressive attempts at extension of life. The goals of surgical interventions in such patients include gaining “Ëœadditional time,’ improving quality of life, decreasing pain, or treating isolated problems, such as fracture.”

Hadiza Kazaure, B.Sc., and colleagues from Yale University School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., analyzed data from 4,128 adult patients with DNR and 4,128 age-matched and procedure-matched patients without DNR between 2005 and 2008.

“The overall mortality rate was 15.3 percent,” the authors report. “Compared with non-DNR patients, more than twice as many DNR patients died within 30 days of surgery (8.4 percent vs. 23.1 percent). The DNR patients were more likely to die regardless of the urgency of the surgical procedure (35.5 percent vs. 17.8 percent and 16.6 percent vs. 5.5 percent for emergent and non-emergent procedures, respectively).” The authors found that patients with DNR orders were more likely to die after every procedure analyzed. After adjustment for multiple risk factors, a DNR order was still associated with increased odds of death. The authors note the overall complication rate was 28.6 percent. “The DNR patients had higher complication rates than non-DNR patients (31 percent vs. 26.4 percent).”

“The DNR patients may have surgery to gain “Ëœadditional time’; nevertheless, our study demonstrates that almost a quarter of DNR patients die within 30 days of surgery. Informed consent and elicitation of the goals of surgery, especially as they relate to overall goals of care, are essential for guiding surgical decisions involving DNR patients and their families. Issues pertaining to DNR status are complex, and they should be anticipated long before the 30-day period leading to an operation. Additional research is needed to evaluate the decision making of DNR patients with respect to undergoing surgery, particularly in the non-emergent setting, and the impact of a pre-operative DNR order on post-operative surgical care and to determine the long-term outcomes of DNR patients by procedure,” the authors were quoted as saying.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives, published online April 18, 2011