In the last few years, important changes have occurred in the clinical and epidemiological characteristics of patients that were admitted to cardiac intensive care units (CICU). Care has shifted from acute coronary syndrome patients towards elderly patients, with a high prevalence of non-ischemic cardiovascular diseases and a high burden of non-cardiovascular comorbid conditions: both increase the susceptibility of patients to developing life-threatening critical conditions. These conditions are associated with a significant symptom burden and mortality rate and an increased length of stay. In this context, palliative care programs, including withholding/withdrawing life support treatments or the deactivation of implanted cardiac devices, are frequently needed, according to the specific guidelines of scientific societies. However, the implementation of these recommendations in clinical practice is still inconsistent. In this review, we analyze the reasons for this gap and the main cultural changes that are required to improve the care of patients with advanced illness.
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