More than 20% of terminally ill patients in the U.S. die in expensive intensive-care units, although nine out of 10 Americans say they would prefer a low-tech approach to death, according to researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. Analyzing 552,157 deaths in six states using 1999 hospital discharge data, researchers found that 38% of the deaths occurred in the hospital and 22% in the ICU. Extrapolated nationally, more than half a million Americans die annually in ICUs. End-of-life ICU use was highest among infants, at 43% of ICU deaths, and lowest for people over 85, at 14%. Terminally ill ICU patients had an average stay of 12.9 days at a cost of $24,541, compared with 8.9 days at a cost of $8,548 for terminally ill patients not in the ICU. The study appears in the March issue of Critical Care Medicine. -- by Cinda Becker
20% of terminally ill die in hospital ICUs: study
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