Indexed on: 10 Jan '08Published on: 10 Jan '08Published in: Journal of General Internal Medicine
To understand potential barriers to physician-initiated discussions about Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) deactivation in patients with advanced illness.Qualitative one-on-one interviews.Four electrophysiologists, 4 cardiologists, and 4 generalists (internists and geriatricians) from 3 states.Clinicians were interviewed using open-ended questions to elicit their past experiences with discussing deactivating ICDs and to determine what barriers might impede these discussions. Transcripts of these interviews were analyzed using the qualitative method of constant comparison.Although many physicians believed that conversations about deactivating ICDs should be included in advance care planning discussions, they acknowledged that they rarely did this. Physicians indicated that there was something intrinsic to the nature of these devices that makes it inherently difficult to think of them in the same context as other management decisions at the end of a patient's life. Other explanations physicians gave as to why they did not engage in conversations included: the small internal nature of these devices and hence absence of a physical reminder to discuss the ICD, the absence of an established relationship with the patient, and their own general concerns relating to withdrawing care.Whereas some of the barriers to discussing ICD deactivation are common to all forms of advance care planning, ICDs have unique characteristics that make these conversations more difficult. Future educational interventions will need to be designed to teach physicians how to improve communication with patients about the management of ICDs at the end of life.