Assessment of Palliative Care Needs in a Kenyan Intensive Care Unit Using a Trigger-Based Model

Document Type



Internal Medicine (East Africa)


Context: Palliative care triggers have been used in the intensive care unit (ICU) setting, usually in high-income countries, to identify patients who may benefit from palliative care consults. The utility and benefits of palliative care triggers in the ICU have not been previously studied in sub-Saharan Africa.

Objectives: Our objectives were to determine the prevalence of ICU admissions in those who met at least one palliative care trigger and whether a palliative care consult influenced the length of ICU stay and time to change of goals order.

Methods: We conducted a prospective observational cohort study within our ICU at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi, between December 2019 and August 2020. Data including initiation of a palliative care consult, length of ICU stay, mortality, and time to change of goals order were collected.

Results: During our study period, 72 of 159 (45.9%) patients met at least one palliative care trigger point. Of the patients who met the palliative care triggers, only 29.2% received a palliative care consult. Patients who received palliative care consults had higher rates of change of goals orders signed (52.3%) vs. those who did not (P 1⁄4 0.009). There was no statistically significant difference between the consult and nonconsult groups in regard to length of ICU stay, time to change of goals order, and mortality.

Conclusion: A trigger-based model, geared to the needs of the specific ICU, may be one way of improving integration of palliative care into the ICU, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of Pain and Symptom Management