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What is a Code Status and What Do They Mean?

Quick summary: Each code status tells the medical team what a patients wants and does not want in the event of a medical emergency. 

A CODE STATUS is listed in a patient’s medical chart each time they are admitted to the hospital. It lets the patient’s medical team know what they want and do not want in the event of a medical emergency such as their heart stopping. The code statuses a patient may choose are full code, do not resuscitate, and do not intubate.

If a patient is listed as FULL code, it means they want resuscitation and all life saving measures during a medical emergency. This includes chest compressions, “shocks” (cardioversion or defibrillation), and being placed on a ventilator.

Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) means if the patient’s heart stops, they do not want the medical team to intervene. They want to die without any attempts at revival. It does NOT mean they want to withhold treatment for their medical issues. It simply means if their heart stops on its own, they do not want CPR.

Do Not Intubate (DNI) means a patient does not want to undergo intubation. This is a procedure where we place a breathing tube into the mouth, through the vocal cords, and into the lungs. This tube is then attached to a ventilator, a type of life support, to support the patient’s breathing. If a patient is DNI, there are oxygen support devices that are not invasive that can be used to support their breathing such as high flow nasal cannula or BiPAP.

At the end of life, a patient may not want aggressive treatment for their disease process. The code status is listed as DNR/DNI and the patient’s goal of care is “comfort measures only”. At this point, a patient can opt for the medical team to focus on treating symptoms such as pain and anxiety.

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