Surgical Interventions During End-of-Life Hospitalizations in Children's Hospitals


Surgical Interventions During End-of-Life Hospitalizations in Children's Hospitals


Traynor MD; Antiel RM; Camazine MN; Blinman TA; Nance ML; Eghtesady P; Lam SK; Hall M; Feudtner C






Adolescent; Age Factors; Biopsy; Catheterization; Child; Chronic Disease; Ethnicity; Hospitalization; Infant; International Classification of Diseases; Newborn Infant; Pediatric Hospitals; Preschool Child; Prosthesis Implantation; Race Factors; Retrospective Studies; Salvage Therapy; Surgical Procedures, Operative; Terminal Care; United States; Young Adult


OBJECTIVES: To characterize patterns of surgery among pediatric patients during terminal hospitalizations in children's hospitals. METHODS: We reviewed patients ≤20 years of age who died among 4 424 886 hospitalizations from January 2013-December 2019 within 49 US children's hospitals in the Pediatric Health Information System database. Surgical procedures, identified by International Classification of Diseases procedure codes, were classified by type and purpose. Descriptive statistics characterized procedures, and hypothesis testing determined if undergoing surgery varied by patient age, race and ethnicity, or the presence of chronic complex conditions (CCCs). RESULTS: Among 33 693 terminal hospitalizations, the majority (n = 30 440, 90.3%) of children were admitted for nontraumatic causes. Of these children, 15 142 (49.7%) underwent surgery during the hospitalization, with the percentage declining over time (P < .001). When surgical procedures were classified according to likely purpose, the most common were to insert or address hardware or catheters (31%), explore or aid in diagnosis (14%), attempt to rescue patient from mortality (13%), or obtain a biopsy (13%). Specific CCC types were associated with undergoing surgery. Surgery during terminal hospitalization was less likely among Hispanic children (47.8%; P < .001), increasingly less likely as patient age increased, and more so for Black, Asian American, and Hispanic patients compared with white patients (P < .001). CONCLUSIONS: Nearly half of children undergo surgery during their terminal hospitalization, and accordingly, pediatric surgical care is an important aspect of end-of-life care in hospital settings. Differences observed across race and ethnicity categories of patients may reflect different preferences for and access to nonhospital-based palliative, hospice, and end-of-life care.


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Traynor MD; Antiel RM; Camazine MN; Blinman TA; Nance ML; Eghtesady P; Lam SK; Hall M; Feudtner C, “Surgical Interventions During End-of-Life Hospitalizations in Children's Hospitals,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed July 6, 2022,

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