Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST): Lessons learned from analysis of the Oregon POLST Registry

Terri A. Schmidt, Dana Zive, Erik K. Fromme, Jennifer N.B. Cook, Susan W. Tolle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Scopus citations


Background: Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) has become a common means of documenting patient treatment preferences. In addition to orders either for Attempt Resuscitation or Do Not Attempt Resuscitation, for patients not in cardiopulmonary arrest, POLST provides three levels of treatment: Full Treatment, Limited Interventions, and Comfort Measures Only. Oregon has an electronic registry for POLST forms completed in the state. We used registry data to examine the different combinations of treatment orders. Methods and results: We analyzed data from forms signed and entered into the Oregon POLST Registry in 2012. The analysis included 31,294 POLST forms. The mean Registrant age was 76.7 years. 21,396 (68.4%) had Do Not Attempt Resuscitation (DNR) orders and 9900 (31.6%) had orders for "Attempt Resuscitation". The 6 order combinations were: Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)/Comfort Measures Only 10,769 (34.4%), DNR/Limited Interventions 9306 (29.7%), DNR/Full Treatment 1211 (3.9%), Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)/Comfort Measures Only 11 (0.04%), Attempt CPR/Limited Interventions 2281 (7.3%), and Attempt CPR/Full Treatment 7473 (23.9%). Conclusions: The most common order combinations were DNR/Comfort Measures Only, DNR/Limited Interventions and Attempt Resuscitation/Full Treatment. These three makes sense to health professionals. However, other order combinations that require interpretation at the time of a crisis were completed for about 10% of Registrants. These combinations need further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)480-485
Number of pages6
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Advance care planning
  • Emergency Medical Services (EMS)
  • Registries
  • Resuscitation orders
  • Scope of treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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