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Differences in Code Status and End-of-Life Decision Making in Patients With Limited English Proficiency in the Intensive Care Unit



      To determine whether code status, advance directives, and decisions to limit life support were different for patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) in the intensive care unit (ICU) as compared with patients whose primary language was English.

      Patients and Methods

      We conducted a retrospective cohort study in adult patients admitted to 7 ICUs in a single tertiary academic medical center from May 31, 2011, through June 1, 2014.


      Of the 27,523 patients admitted to the ICU, 779 (2.8%) had LEP. When adjusted for severity of illness, sex, education level, and insurance status, patients with LEP were less likely to change their code status from full code to do not resuscitate during ICU admission (odds ratio [OR], 0.62; 95% CI, 0.46-0.82; P<.001) and took 3.8 days (95% CI, 1.9-5.6 days; P<.001) longer to change to do not resuscitate. Patients with LEP who died in the ICU were less likely to receive a comfort measures order set (OR, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.16-0.91; P=.03) and took 19.1 days (95% CI, 13.2-25.1 days; P<.001) longer to transition to comfort measures only. Patients with LEP were less likely to have an advance directive (OR, 0.23; 95% CI, 0.18-0.29; P<.001), more likely to receive mechanical ventilation (OR, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.07-1.48; P=.005), and more likely to have restraints used (OR, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.11-1.65; P=.003). The hospital length of stay was 2.7 days longer for patients with LEP. Additional adjustment for religion, race, and age yielded similar results.


      There are important differences in end-of-life care and decision making for patients with LEP.

      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      APACHE (Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation), DNR (do not resuscitate), ICU (intensive care unit), LEP (limited English proficiency), OR (odds ratio)
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