Rob Fowler

University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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Publications (19)45.57 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Very elderly persons admitted to ICUs are at high risk of death. To document life-sustaining interventions (mechanical ventilation, vasopressors, renal replacement therapy) provided in the ICU and outcomes of care. Multicenter, prospective cohort study. ICUs of 24 Canadian hospitals. Patients 80 years old or older admitted to the ICU. None. One thousand six hundred seventy-one patients were included. The average age of the cohort was 85 years (range, 80-100 yr). Median total length of stay in ICU was 4 days (interquartile range, 2-8 d) and in hospital was 17 days (interquartile range, 8-33 d). Of all patients included, 502 (30%) stayed in ICU for 7 days or more and 344 (21%) received some form of life-sustaining treatment for at least 7 days. ICU and hospital mortality were 22% and 35%, respectively. For nonsurvivors, the median time from ICU admission to death was 10 days (interquartile range, 3-20 d). Of those who died (n = 5 85), 289 (49%) died while receiving mechanical ventilation, vasopressors, or dialysis. The presence of frailty or advance directives had little impact on limiting use of life-sustaining treatments or shortening the time from admission to death. In this multicenter study, one third of very elderly ICU patients died in hospital, many after a prolonged ICU stay while continuing to receive aggressive life-sustaining interventions. These findings raise questions about the use of critical care at the end of life for the very elderly.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2015 · Critical care medicine
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    ABSTRACT: Little is known about the perspectives and experiences of family members of very elderly patients who are admitted to the intensive care unit. To describe family members' perspectives about care provided to very elderly critically ill patients. Multicenter, prospective, cohort study. In total, 535 family members of patients aged 80 years or older admitted to 22 intensive care units for more than 24 h. Family members reported that the "patient be comfortable and suffer as little as possible" was their most important value and "the belief that life should be preserved at all costs" was their least important value considered in making treatment decisions. Most family members (57.9%) preferred that life support be used for their family member, whereas 24.1% preferred comfort measures only, and 14.4% were unsure of their treatment preferences. Only 57.3% reported that a doctor had talked to them about treatment options for the patient. Overall, 29.7% of patients received life-sustaining treatments for more than 7 days and 50.3% of these died in hospital. Families were most satisfied with the skill and competency of nurses and least satisfied with being included and supported in the decision-making process and with their sense of control over the patient's care. There is incongruity between family values and preferences for end-of-life care and actual care received for very elderly patients who are admitted to the intensive care unit. Deficiencies in communication and decision-making may be associated with prolonged use of life-sustaining treatments in very elderly critically ill patients, many of whom ultimately die. © The Author(s) 2015.
    Full-text · Article · Feb 2015 · Palliative Medicine
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    ABSTRACT: Objective: Many healthcare workers are concerned about the provision of nonbeneficial treatment in the acute care setting. We sought to explore the perceptions of acute care practitioners to determine whether they perceived nonbeneficial treatment to be a problem, to generate an acceptable definition of nonbeneficial treatment, to learn about their perceptions of the impact and causes of nonbeneficial treatment, and the ways that they feel could reduce or resolve nonbeneficial treatment. Design: National, bilingual, cross-sectional survey of a convenience sample of nursing and medical staff who provide direct patient care in acute medical wards or ICUs in Canada. Main results: We received 688 responses (response rate 61%) from 11 sites. Seventy-four percent of respondents were nurses. Eighty-two percent of respondents believe that our current means of resolving nonbeneficial treatment are inadequate. The most acceptable definitions of nonbeneficial treatment were "advanced curative/life-prolonging treatments that would almost certainly result in a quality of life that the patient has previously stated that he/she would not want" (88% agreement) and "advanced curative/life-prolonging treatments that are not consistent with the goals of care (as indicated by the patient)" (83% agreement). Respondents most commonly believed that nonbeneficial treatment was caused by substitute decision makers who do not understand the limitations of treatment, or who cannot accept a poor prognosis (90% agreement for each cause), and 52% believed that nonbeneficial treatment was "often" or "always" continued until the patient died or was discharged from hospital. Respondents believed that nonbeneficial treatment was a common problem with a negative impact on all stakeholders (> 80%) and perceived that improved advance care planning and communication training would be the most effective (92% and 88%, respectively) and morally acceptable (95% and 92%, respectively) means to resolve the problem of nonbeneficial treatment. Conclusions: Canadian nurses and physicians perceive that our current means of resolving nonbeneficial treatment are inadequate, and that we need to adopt new techniques of resolving nonbeneficial treatment. The most promising strategies to reduce nonbeneficial treatment are felt to be improved advance care planning and communication training for healthcare professionals.
    No preview · Article · Nov 2014 · Critical Care Medicine
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    ABSTRACT: http://www.canadiancriticalcare.org/_assets/Ebola%20Clinical%20Care%20Guidelines_FR.pdf
    Full-text · Technical Report · Oct 2014
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    ABSTRACT: http://www.canadiancriticalcare.org/_assets/Ebola%20Clinical%20Care%20Guidelines_ENG.pdf
    Full-text · Technical Report · Oct 2014
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    Full-text · Technical Report · Aug 2014
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    ABSTRACT: Controversies regarding the process and timing of the determination of death for controlled organ donation after circulatory death persist. This study assessed the feasibility of conducting a prospective, observational study of continuous monitoring of vital signs for 30 minutes after the clinical determination of death in five Canadian ICUs. Waveform data were analyzed. Prospective observational cohort study. One pediatric and four adult Canadian ICUs. One month of age or older, admitted to the ICU, and for whom a consensual decision to withdraw life-sustaining therapies had been made, with an anticipation of imminent death. None. Invasive arterial blood pressure, electrocardiogram, and oxygen saturation plethysmography activity were recorded and reviewed for 30 minutes after declaration of death. Feasibility was assessed (recruitment, consent rate, protocol compliance, and staff satisfaction). Of 188 subjects screened over 16 months, 41 subjects were enrolled (87% consent rate). Data collection was complete for 30 subjects (73% protocol compliance). In four subjects, arterial blood pressure resumed following cessation of activity. The longest period of cessation of arterial blood pressure before resumption was 89 seconds. The duration of resumed activity ranged from 1 to 172 seconds. No cases of sustained resumption of arterial blood pressure activity were recorded, and no instances of clinical autoresuscitation were reported. In nearly all patients (27 of 30), electrocardiogram activity continued after the disappearance of arterial blood pressure. This is the first observational study to prospectively collect waveform data for 30 minutes after the declaration of death. A future larger study may support initial data suggesting that circulatory function does not resume after more than 89 seconds of absence. Furthermore, persistence of cardiac electrical activity with the documented absence of circulation may not be relevant to declaration of death.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · Critical care medicine
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    ABSTRACT: The objective of this study was to identify the self-reported barriers to and facilitators of prescribing low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) thromboprophylaxis in the intensive care unit (ICU). We conducted an interviewer-administered survey of 4 individuals per ICU (the ICU director, a bedside pharmacist, a thromboprophylaxis research coordinator, and physician site investigator) regarding LMWH thromboprophylaxis for medical-surgical patients in 27 ICUs in Canada and the United States. Items were generated by the research team and adapted from previous surveys, audits, qualitative studies, and quality improvement research. Respondents rated the barriers to LMWH use, facilitators (effectiveness, affordability, and acceptability thereof), and perceptions regarding LMWH use. Respondents had 14.5 (SD, 7.7) years of ICU experience (response rate, 99%). The 5 most common barriers in descending order were as follows: drug acquisition cost, fear of bleeding, lack of resident education, concern about bioaccumulation in renal failure, and habit. The top 5 rated facilitators were preprinted orders, education, daily reminders, audit and feedback, and local quality improvement committee endorsement. Centers using preprinted orders (mean difference [P<.01]) and computerized physician order entry (P<.01) compared with those centers not using those tools reported higher affordability for these 2 facilitators. Compared with physicians and pharmacists, research coordinators considered ICU-specific audit and feedback of thromboprophylaxis rates to be a more effective, acceptable, and affordable facilitator (odds ratio, 6.67; 95% confidence interval, 1.97-22.53; P<.01). Facilitator acceptability ratings were similar within centers but differed across centers (P≤.01). This multicenter survey found several barriers to use of LMWH including cost, concern about bleeding, and lack of resident knowledge of effectiveness. The diversity of reported facilitators suggests that large scale programs may address generic barriers but also need site-specific interprofessional knowledge translation activities.
    No preview · Article · Feb 2014 · Journal of critical care
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    ABSTRACT: OBJECTIVE: The efficacy of systemic corticosteroids in many critical illnesses remains uncertain. Our primary objective was to survey intensivists in North America about their perceived use of corticosteroids in clinical practice. DESIGN: Self-administered paper survey. POPULATION: Intensivists in academic hospitals with clinical trial expertise in critical illness. MEASUREMENTS: We generated questionnaire items in focus groups and refined them after assessments of clinical sensibility and test-retest reliability and pilot testing. We administered the survey to experienced intensivists practicing in selected North American centres actively enrolling patients in the multicentre Oscillation for ARDS Treated Early (OSCILLATE) Trial (ISRCTN87124254). Respondents used a four-point scale to grade how frequently they would administer corticosteroids in 14 clinical settings. They also reported their opinions on 16 potential near-absolute indications or contraindications for the use of corticosteroids. MAIN RESULTS: Our response rate was 82% (103/125). Respondents were general internists (50%), respirologists (22%), anesthesiologists (21%), and surgeons (7%) who practiced in mixed medical-surgical units. A majority of respondents reported almost always prescribing corticosteroids in the setting of significant bronchospasm in a mechanically ventilated patient (94%), recent corticosteroid use and low blood pressure (93%), and vasopressor-refractory septic shock (52%). Although more than half of respondents stated they would almost never prescribe corticosteroids in severe community-acquired pneumonia (81%), acute lung injury (ALI, 76%), acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS, 65%), and severe ARDS (51%), variability increased with severity of acute lung injury. Near-absolute indications selected by most respondents included known adrenal insufficiency (99%) and suspicion of cryptogenic organizing pneumonia (89%), connective tissue disease (85%), or other potentially corticosteroid-responsive illnesses (85%). CONCLUSIONS: Respondents reported rarely prescribing corticosteroids for ALI, but accepted them for bronchospasm, suspected adrenal insufficiency due to previous corticosteroid use, and vasopressor-refractory septic shock. These competing indications will complicate the design and interpretation of any future large-scale trial of corticosteroids in critical illness.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2013 · Canadian Anaesthetists? Society Journal
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction Research on co-enrollment practices and their impact are limited in the ICU setting. The objectives of this study were: 1) to describe patterns and predictors of co-enrollment of patients in a thromboprophylaxis trial, and 2) to examine the consequences of co-enrollment on clinical and trial outcomes. Methods In an observational analysis of an international thromboprophylaxis trial in 67 ICUs, we examined the co-enrollment of critically ill medical-surgical patients into more than one study, and examined the clinical and trial outcomes among co-enrolled and non-co-enrolled patients. Results Among 3,746 patients enrolled in PROTECT (Prophylaxis for ThromboEmbolism in Critical Care Trial), 713 (19.0%) were co-enrolled in at least one other study (53.6% in a randomized trial, 37.0% in an observational study and 9.4% in both). Six factors independently associated with co-enrollment (all P < 0.001) were illness severity (odds ratio (OR) 1.35, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.19 to 1.53 for each 10-point Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) II score increase), substitute decision-makers providing consent, rather than patients (OR 3.31, 2.03 to 5.41), experience of persons inviting consent (OR 2.67, 1.74 to 4.11 for persons with > 10 years' experience compared to persons with none), center size (all ORs > 10 for ICUs with > 15 beds), affiliation with trials groups (OR 5.59, 3.49 to 8.95), and main trial rather than pilot phase (all ORs > 8 for recruitment year beyond the pilot). Co-enrollment did not influence clinical or trial outcomes or risk of adverse events. Conclusions Co-enrollment was strongly associated with features of the patients, research personnel, setting and study. Co-enrollment had no impact on trial results, and appeared safe, acceptable and feasible. Transparent reporting, scholarly discourse, ethical analysis and further research are needed on the complex topic of co-enrollment during critical illness.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2013 · Critical care (London, England)
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    ABSTRACT: There is a paucity of data about the clinical characteristics that help identify patients at high risk of influenza infection upon ICU admission. We aimed to identify predictors of influenza infection in patients admitted to ICUs during the 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 influenza seasons and the second wave of the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic as well as to identify populations with increased likelihood of seasonal and pandemic 2009 influenza (pH1N1) infection. Six Toronto acute care hospitals participated in active surveillance for laboratory-confirmed influenza requiring ICU admission during periods of influenza activity from 2007 to 2009. Nasopharyngeal swabs were obtained from patients who presented to our hospitals with acute respiratory or cardiac illness or febrile illness without a clear nonrespiratory aetiology. Predictors of influenza were assessed by multivariable logistic regression analysis and the likelihood of influenza in different populations was calculated. In 5,482 patients, 126 (2.3%) were found to have influenza. Admission temperature ≥38°C (odds ratio (OR) 4.7 for pH1N1, 2.3 for seasonal influenza) and admission diagnosis of pneumonia or respiratory infection (OR 7.3 for pH1N1, 4.2 for seasonal influenza) were independent predictors for influenza. During the peak weeks of influenza seasons, 17% of afebrile patients and 27% of febrile patients with pneumonia or respiratory infection had influenza. During the second wave of the 2009 pandemic, 26% of afebrile patients and 70% of febrile patients with pneumonia or respiratory infection had influenza. The findings of our study may assist clinicians in decision making regarding optimal management of adult patients admitted to ICUs during future influenza seasons. Influenza testing, empiric antiviral therapy and empiric infection control precautions should be considered in those patients who are admitted during influenza season with a diagnosis of pneumonia or respiratory infection and are either febrile or admitted during weeks of peak influenza activity.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2011 · Critical care (London, England)

  • No preview · Conference Paper · May 2011

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  • No preview · Conference Paper · May 2010
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    ABSTRACT: Pandemic H1N1 influenza is projected to be unprecedented in its scope, causing acute critical illness among thousands of young otherwise healthy adults, who will need advanced life support. Rigorous, relevant, timely, and ethical clinical and health services research is crucial to improve their care and outcomes. Studies designed and conducted during a pandemic should be held to the same high methodologic and implementation standards as during other times. However, unique challenges arise with the need to conduct investigations as efficiently as possible, focused on the optimal outcome for the individual patient, while balancing the need for maximal societal benefit. We believe that clinical critical care research during a pandemic must be approached differently from research undertaken under nonemergent circumstances. We propose recommendations to clinical investigators and research ethics committees regarding clinical and health services research on pandemic-related critical illness. We also propose strategies such as expedited and centralized research ethics committee reviews and alternate consent models.
    Full-text · Article · Dec 2009 · Critical care medicine
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    ABSTRACT: Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in ventilated critically ill patients. Despite a large amount of research evidence, the optimal diagnostic and treatment strategies for VAP remain controversial. The aim of this study was to develop evidence-based clinical practice guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of VAP. Data sources include Medline, EMBASE, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and Register of Controlled Trials. The authors systematically searched for all relevant randomized controlled trials and systematic reviews on the diagnosis and treatment of VAP in mechanically ventilated adults that were published from 1980 to October 1, 2006. Independently and in duplicate, the panel critically appraised each published trial. The effect size, confidence intervals, and homogeneity of the results were scored using predefined definitions. The full guideline development panel arrived at a consensus for scores on safety, feasibility, and economic issues. Based on the scores for each topic, the following statements of recommendation were used: recommend, consider, do not recommend, and no recommendation because of insufficient or conflicting evidence. For the diagnosis of VAP in immunocompetent patients, we recommend that endotracheal aspirates with nonquantitative cultures be used as the initial diagnostic strategy. When there is a suspicion of VAP, we recommend empiric antimicrobial therapy (in contrast to delayed or culture directed therapy) and appropriate single agent antimicrobial therapy for each potential pathogen as empiric therapy for VAP. Choice of antibiotics should be based on patient factors and local resistance patterns. We recommend that an antibiotic discontinuation strategy be used in patients who are treated of suspected VAP. For patients who receive adequate initial antibiotic therapy, we recommend 8 days of antibiotic therapy. We do not recommend nebulized endotracheal tobramycin or intratracheal instillation of tobramycin for the treatment of VAP. We present evidence-based recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of VAP. Implementation of these recommendations into clinical practice may lessen the morbidity and mortality of patients who develop VAP.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2008 · Journal of Critical Care
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    ABSTRACT: Ventilator-associated pneumonia (VAP) is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in ventilated critically ill patients. To develop evidence-based guidelines for the prevention of VAP. MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and Register of Controlled Trials. The authors systematically searched for all relevant randomized, controlled trials and systematic reviews on the topic of prevention of VAP in adults that were published from 1980 to October 1, 2006. Independently and in duplicate, the panel scored the internal validity of each trial. Effect size, confidence intervals, and homogeneity of the results were scored using predefined definitions. Scores for the safety, feasibility, and economic issues were assigned based on consensus of the guideline panel. The following statements were used: recommend, consider, do not recommend, and no recommendation due to insufficient or conflicting evidence. To prevent VAP: We recommend: that the orotracheal route of intubation should be used for intubation; a new ventilator circuit for each patient; circuit changes if the circuit becomes soiled or damaged, but no scheduled changes; change of heat and moisture exchangers every 5 to 7 days or as clinically indicated; the use of a closed endotracheal suctioning system changed for each patient and as clinically indicated; subglottic secretion drainage in patients expected to be mechanically ventilated for more than 72 hours; head of bed elevation to 45 degrees (when impossible, as near to 45 degrees as possible should be considered). Consider: the use of rotating beds; oral antiseptic rinses. We do not recommend: use of bacterial filters; the use of iseganan We make no recommendations regarding: the use of a systematic search for sinusitis; type of airway humidification; timing of tracheostomy; prone positioning; aerosolized antibiotics; intranasal mupirocin; topical and/or intravenous antibiotics. There are a growing number of evidence-based strategies for VAP prevention, which, if applied in practice, may reduce the incidence of this serious nosocomial infection.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2008 · Journal of Critical Care