BACKGROUND: Children with serious illness suffer from symptoms at the end of life that often fail to be relieved. An overview is required of healthcare interventions improving and decreasing quality of life (QOL) for children with serious illness at the end of life.
METHODS: A systematic review was performed in five databases, January 2000 to July 2018 without language limit. Reviewers selected quantitative studies with a healthcare intervention, for example, medication or treatment, and QOL outcomes or QOL-related measures, for example, symptoms, for children aged 1-17 years with serious illness. One author assessed outcomes with the QualSyst and GRADE (Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) Framework; two authors checked a 25% sample. QOL improvement or reduction was categorized.
RESULTS: Thirty-six studies met the eligibility criteria studying 20 unique interventions. Designs included 1 randomized controlled trial, 1 cross-sectional study, and 34 cohort studies. Patient-reported symptom monitoring increased QOL significantly in cancer patients in a randomized controlled trial. Dexmedetomidine, methadone, ventilation, pleurodesis, and palliative care were significantly associated with improved QOL, and chemotherapy, stem cell transplant, and hospitalization with reduced QOL, in cohort studies.
CONCLUSIONS: Use of patient-controlled symptom feedback, multidisciplinary palliative care teams with full-time practical support, inhalation therapy, and off-label sedative medication may improve QOL. Curative therapy may reduce QOL.
IMPACT: QOL for children at the end of life may be improved with patient-controlled symptom feedback, multidisciplinary palliative care teams with full-time practical support, inhalation therapy, and off-label sedative medication.QOL for children at the end of life may be reduced with therapy with a curative intent, such as curative chemotherapy or stem cell transplant.A comprehensive overview of current evidence to elevate currently often-failing QOL management for children at the end of life.New paradigm-level indicators for appropriate and inappropriate QOL management in children at the end of life.New hypotheses for future research, guided by the current knowledge within the field.Various healthcare interventions (as described above) could or might be employed as tools to provide relief in QOL management for children with serious illness, such as cancer, at the end of life, and therefore could be discussed in pediatrician end-of-life training to limit the often failed QOL management in this population, cave the one-size-fits-all approach for individual cases.Multidisciplinary team efforts and 24/7 presence, especially practical support for parents, might characterize effective palliative care team interventions for children with serious illness at the end of life, suggesting a co-regulating link between well-being of the child partly to that of the parentsHypothesis-oriented research is needed, especially for children with nonmalignant disorders, such as genetic or neurological disorders at the end of life, as well as QOL outcomes for intervention research and psychosocial or spiritual outcomes.
CONTEXT: Making end-of-life decisions in neonates involves ethically difficult and distressing dilemmas for healthcare providers. Insight into which factors complicate or facilitate this decision-making process could be a necessary first step in formulating recommendations to aid future practice.
OBJECTIVES: This study aimed to identify barriers to and facilitators of the end-of-life decision-making process as perceived by neonatologists and nurses.
METHODS: We conducted semi-structured face-to-face interviews with 15 neonatologists and 15 neonatal nurses, recruited through four neonatal intensive care units in Flanders, Belgium. They were asked what factors had facilitated and complicated previous end-of-life decision-making processes. Two researchers independently analysed the data, using thematic content analysis to extract and summarize barriers and facilitators.
RESULTS: Barriers and facilitators were found at three distinct levels: the case-specific context (e.g. uncertainty of the diagnosis and specific characteristics of the child, the parents and the healthcare providers which make decision-making more difficult), the decision-making process (e.g. multidisciplinary consultations and advance care planning (ACP) which make decision-making easier), and the overarching structure (e.g. lack of privacy and complex legislation making decision-making more challenging).
CONCLUSIONS: Barriers and facilitators found in this study can lead to recommendations, some simpler to implement than others, to aid the complex end-of-life decision making process. Recommendations include establishing regular multidisciplinary meetings to include all healthcare providers and reduce unnecessary uncertainty, routinely implementing ACP in severely ill neonates to make important decisions beforehand, creating privacy for bad-news conversations with parents and reviewing the complex legal framework of perinatal end-of-life decision-making.