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Time-limited trial of intensive care treatment: an overview of current literature

Eva E. Vink| Elie Azoulay| Arthur Caplan| Erwin J. O. Kompanje| Jan Bakker
Review
Volume 44, Issue 9 / September , 2018

Pages 1369 - 1377

Abstract

In critically ill patients, it is frequently challenging to identify who will benefit from admission to the intensive care unit and life-sustaining interventions when the chances of a meaningful outcome are unclear. In addition, the acute illness not only affects the patients but also family members or surrogates who often are overwhelmed and unable to make thoughtful decisions. In these circumstances, a time-limited trial (TLT) of intensive care treatment can be helpful. A TLT is an agreement to initiate all necessary treatments or treatments with clearly delineated limitations for a certain period of time to gain a more realistic understanding of the patient’s chances of a meaningful recovery or to ascertain the patient’s wishes and values. In this article, we discuss current research on different aspects of TLTs in the intensive care unit. We propose how and when to use TLTs, discuss how much time should be taken for a TLT, give an overview of the potential impact of TLTs on healthcare resources, describe ethical challenges concerning TLTs, and discuss how to evaluate a TLT.

Keywords

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