Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 1773–1780 | Cite as

Attitudes towards end-of-life issues in intensive care unit among Italian anesthesiologists: a nation-wide survey

  • Andrea CortegianiEmail author
  • Vincenzo Russotto
  • Santi Maurizio Raineri
  • Cesare Gregoretti
  • Antonino Giarratano
  • Sebastiano Mercadante
Original Article



The aim of this paper is to collect data on the practice of palliative care, withholding and withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies, and management of end of life (EOL) in Italian intensive care units (ICUs).


Web-based survey among Italian anesthesiologists endorsed by the Italian Society of Anesthesiology Analgesia Reanimation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI). The survey consists of 27 close-ended and 2 open-ended questions.


Eight hundred and five persons responded to the full list of questions. The highest proportion of respondents was of 36–45 years of age (34%) and catholic (66%). Almost 70% of responders declared that palliative/supportive care are applied in their ICU in case of futility of intensive treatments. Decision on withdrawing/withholding of life-sustaining treatments resulted from team consensus in most cases (58%). In more than 70% of responders’ ICUs, there is no collaboration with palliative/supportive care experts. Systematic recording of most frequent symptoms experienced by critically ill patients (e.g., pain, dyspnea, thirst) was not common. Vasopressors, extracorporeal therapies, blood component transfusions and invasive monitoring were the most commonly modified/interrupted measures in case of futility. Almost 85% of respondents have not received training in palliative/supportive care. The proportion of respondents whose institution has a palliative care team and who had training in palliative care was not homogenous across the country.


These data suggest that training in palliative care and its clinical application should be implemented in Italy. Efforts should be made to improve and homogenize the management of dying patients in ICU.


Palliative care End-of-life care Intensive care unit Life-sustaining treatments 



We want to acknowledge Dr. Antonio Corcione, SIAARTI president, for approving this project.

We would like to acknowledge Emiliano Tizi (SIAARTI secretariat) for his technical support to prepare and promote this survey. We would like to thank all the Italian anesthesiologists who shared the practice of their ICU completing this survey.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Andrea Cortegiani, Vincenzo Russotto, Santi Maurizio Raineri, Cesare Gregoretti, Antonino Giarratano, Sebastiano Mercadante declare they have no conflict of interest.

Sebastiano Mercadante is the Head of the Palliative Care Study Group of Italian Society of Anesthesiology Analgesia Reanimation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biopathology and Medical Biotechnologies (DIBIMED), Section of Anesthesia, Analgesia, Intensive Care and Emergency, Policlinico Paolo GiacconeUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly
  2. 2.Anesthesia and Intensive Care and Pain Relief and Palliative/Supportive Care UnitLa Maddalena Cancer CenterPalermoItaly

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