BACKGROUND - Adults hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) are at high risk for short-term mortality. However, it is unclear whether improvements in in-hospital pneumonia care could substantially lower this risk. We extensively reviewed all in-hospital deaths in a large prospective CAP study to assess the cause of each death and assess the extent of potentially preventable mortality.
METHODS - We enrolled adults hospitalized with CAP at five tertiary-care hospitals in the United States. Five physician investigators reviewed the medical record and study database for each patient who died to identify the cause of death, the contribution of CAP to death, and any preventable factors potentially contributing to death.
RESULTS - Among 2,320 enrolled patients, 52 (2.2%) died during initial hospitalization. Among these 52 patients, 33 (63.4%) were ≥ 65 years old, and 32 (61.5%) had ≥ two chronic comorbidities. CAP was judged to be the direct cause of death in 27 patients (51.9%). Ten patients (19.2%) had do-not-resuscitate orders prior to admission. Four patients were identified in whom a lapse in quality of care potentially contributed to death; preexisting end-of-life limitations were present in two of these patients. Two patients seeking full medical care experienced a lapse in in-hospital quality of pneumonia care that potentially contributed to death.
CONCLUSIONS - In this study of adults with CAP at tertiary-care hospitals with a low mortality rate, most in-hospital deaths did not appear to be preventable with improvements in in-hospital pneumonia care. Preexisting end-of-life limitations in care, advanced age, and high comorbidity burden were common among those who died.
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