Every day in hospitals across the world, severe acute brain injury devastates patients and their families and challenges clinicians with a unique set of clinical care issues. As these patients with stroke or traumatic brain injury present with acute and neurologically devastating injury, their outcomes rely on early treatment decisions, and these decisions are virtually all made through discussions with surrogate decision makers and organized by critical care, neurosurgery or neurology clinicians who do not know these patients. Despite the remarkable recent advances in acute neurological care, morbidity and mortality remain high. With palliative care increasingly recognized as specialized medical care for patients with serious illness that focuses on improving communication about goals of care and quality of life, there remains a critical gap in understanding palliative care needs specific to patients with severe acute brain injury and their families. The long- term goal of this career development award is to promote Dr. Creutzfeldt's development into an independent physician-scientist working to understand and improve the quality of care early after severe acute brain injury. Dr. Creutzfeldt will conduct a prospective cohort study employing an established palliative care needs checklist that is in daily use in our neurological intensive care unit (neuro-ICU).
The aims of this project are to identify those patients and families at highest risk for poor outcome and at highest need for a palliative care intervention, and to test the feasibility of a multifaceted communication intervention to meet the palliative care needs of this unique patient population and their families. To support her career development, Dr. Creutzfeldt proposes an integrated curriculum consisting of practical experience in designing, conducting and publishing clinical research; coursework in epidemiology, biostatistics and health services research; and intensive mentoring by experts in the fields of palliative care, neurology and critical care. Moreover, she will develop expertise in survey-based outcome assessment, clustered and longitudinal statistical methods, and qualitative data collection and analysis. This proposal has important implications for patients with severe acute brain injury and their families. Understanding the specific palliative care needs and how they affect long-term outcomes will inform the development of palliative care interventions to reduce distress and improve outcomes for these patients and their families.

Public Health Relevance

Severe acute brain injury is common, disabling, and often deadly. Palliative care aims to relieve suffering, enhance patient and family-centered decision-making, and improve quality of life for patients with serious illness whether patients die or survive the illness, but there is a paucity of research specific to palliative care needs and interventions after severe acute brain injury such as stroke and traumatic brain injury. The goal of this project is to better understand the palliative care needs and associated outcomes of patients with severe acute brain injury and their families in the neurological intensive care unit and to evaluate a palliative care intervention designed to improve the care and quality of life of patients and reduce psychological distress for their family members.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23)
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Neurological Sciences Training Initial Review Group (NST)
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Vivalda, Joanna
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University of Washington
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Schutz, Rachael E C; Creutzfeldt, Claire J (2018) Three big things in neuropalliative care: Communication, personhood and uncertainty. J Neurol Sci 385:232-233
Granstein, Justin H; Creutzfeldt, Claire J (2017) A Qualitative Look at End-of-Life Care in the ICU. Crit Care Med 45:2109-2110