Context: Nonpharmacological approaches are effective strategies for difficult to palliate breathlessness. Although acupuncture is effective for dyspnea in early-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), little is known about its effects in patients with advanced (non)malignant diseases.
Objectives: The objective of this study was to identify and examine the evidence of acupuncture on breathlessness in advanced malignant and nonmalignant diseases.
Methods: Systematic literature review of randomized controlled trials of acupuncture and acupressure searched in five databases. Included were adult participants with at least 25% having advanced diseases such as cancer or COPD with severe breathlessness. Primary outcome was severity of dyspnea on Visual Analogue Scale or Borg Scale. Secondary outcomes included quality of life, function, and acceptability. Data were pooled using a random effects model of standardized mean differences.
Results: Twelve studies with 597 patients (347 COPD, 190 advanced cancer) were included. For breathlessness severity, significant differences were obtained in a meta-analysis (10 studies with 480 patients; standardized mean difference (SMD) = -1.77 [95% CI -3.05, -0.49; P = 0.007; I2 = 90%]) and in a subgroup analysis of using sham acupuncture control groups and a treatment duration of at least three weeks (6 studies with 302 patients; SMD = -2.53 [95% CI -4.07, -0.99; P = 0.001; I2 = 91%]). Exercise tolerance (6-minute walk test) improved significantly in the acupuncture group (6 studies with 287 patients; SMD = 0.93 [95% CI 0.27, 1.59; P = 0.006; I2 = 85%]). In four of six studies, quality of life improved in the acupuncture group.
Conclusion: Acupuncture improved breathlessness severity in patients with advanced diseases. The methodological heterogeneity, low power, and potential morphine-sparing effects of acupuncture as add-on should be further addressed in future trials.
Background/objectives: Opioids relieve symptoms in terminal care. We studied opioid underuse in long-term care facilities, defined as residents without opioid prescription despite pain and/or dyspnoea, 3 days prior to death.
Design and setting: In a proportionally stratified randomly selected sample of long-term care facilities in six European Union countries, nurses and long-term care facility management completed structured after-death questionnaires within 3 months of residents’ death.
Measurements: Nurses assessed pain/dyspnoea with Comfort Assessment in Dying with Dementia scale and checked opioid prescription by chart review. We estimated opioid underuse per country and per symptom and calculated associations of opioid underuse by multilevel, multivariable analysis.
Results: nurses’ response rate was 81.6%, 95.7% for managers. Of 901 deceased residents with pain/dyspnoea reported in the last week, 10.6% had dyspnoea, 34.4% had pain and 55.0% had both symptoms. Opioid underuse per country was 19.2% (95% confidence interval: 12.9–27.2) in the Netherlands, 25.2% (18.3–33.6) in Belgium, 29.3% (16.9–45.8) in England, 33.7% (26.2–42.2) in Finland, 64.6% (52.0–75.4) in Italy and 79.1% (71.2–85.3) in Poland (p < 0.001). Opioid underuse was 57.2% (33.0–78.4) for dyspnoea, 41.2% (95% confidence interval: 21.9–63.8) for pain and 37.4% (19.4–59.6) for both symptoms (p = 0.013). Odds of opioid underuse were lower (odds ratio: 0.33; 95% confidence interval: 0.20–0.54) when pain was assessed.
Conclusion: Opioid underuse differs between countries. Pain and dyspnoea should be formally assessed at the end-of-life and taken into account in physicians orders.
Les soins palliatifs sont une approche multidisciplinaire pour améliorer la qualité de vie des patients et leurs familles à tous les stades d’une maladie grave. Cette approche est accomplie en gérant les symptômes pénibles tels que la douleur et la dyspnée. La dyspnée réfractaire se caractérise par une difficulté respiratoire persistante au repos ou avec un effort minimal malgré un traitement optimal de la maladie sous-jacente. L’utilisation d’opioïdes a été bien documentée dans ce contexte ; cependant, l’hésitation persiste lors de la prescription d’opioïdes jusqu’aux étapes terminales de la maladie. Ce travail décrit les preuves actuelles de l’utilisation des opioïdes pour le traitement de la dyspnée en soins palliatifs, les protocoles et les voies de leur administration.
BACKGROUND: Dyspnea is a common distressing symptom in patients with malignant and nonmalignant diseases. Fan therapy, which uses a fan to blow air toward the patient's face, can alleviate dyspnea; however, its efficacy remains unclear.
AIM: To examine the immediate efficacy of fan therapy for alleviation of dyspnea at rest.
DATA SOURCES: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials in the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE EBSCO, CINAHL EBSCO, and Scopus from January 1, 1987, to August 21, 2018 (PROSPERO-CRD42018108610). In addition, we hand-searched studies and used the similar articles feature on PubMed to search for articles. Randomized controlled trials comparing the effects of fan therapy with placebo or other interventions to alleviate dyspnea at rest, in which patients were aged = 18 years, were eligible for inclusion in the review. We excluded articles on long-term intervention involving fan therapy and complex intervention (including fan therapy). The risk of bias assessment was conducted using the Cochrane tool, and the meta-analysis was performed using RevMan version 5.3.
RESULTS: We identified a total of 218 studies; 2 met our criteria for inclusion in the meta-analysis. Fan therapy significantly improved dyspnea at rest in terminally ill patients with cancer compared to control groups (mean difference: -1.31, 95% confidence interval: -1.79 to -0.83, P < .001). There were no studies that met the inclusion criteria regarding fan therapy for patients with nonmalignant disease.
CONCLUSIONS: This meta-analysis demonstrated that fan therapy may be an effective intervention for dyspnea at rest in patients with terminal cancer.
Context: Dyspnea is one of the most distressing symptoms for terminally ill cancer patients and a predictor of poor prognosis. Identification of simple clinical signs, such as heart rate, indicating clinical course of each patient is of value.
Objectives: To explore the potential association between heart rate and reversibility of the symptom, treatment response to palliative intervention, and survival in terminally ill cancer patients with dyspnea at rest.
Methods: This is a secondary analysis of a multicenter prospective cohort study of patients with advanced cancer to validate multiple prognostic tools. In the patients with dyspnea at rest at the baseline, we examined a potential association between heart rate and the reversibility of dyspnea and refractoriness to palliative treatment using logistic regression analysis. Survivals were compared using the Cox proportional hazards model among four groups with different levels of the heart rate (=74, 75–84, 85–97, and =98).
Results: A total of 2298 patients were enrolled, and 418 patients (18%) had dyspnea at rest. Reversibility of dyspnea was significantly higher in the patients with lower heart rate (P for trend = 0.008), and the refractoriness to palliative treatment tended to be higher in the patients with higher heart rate (P for trend = 0.101). The median survival for each heart rate quartile groups was significantly higher in the lower heart rate group (24 vs. 21 vs. 14 vs. 9 days; heart rate =74, 75–84, 85–97, and =98, respectively; log-rank P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Heart rate may help clinicians to make the prediction of the patient's clinical course more accurate.
Background: The role of oxygen therapy in end-of-life care for patients with advanced cancer is incompletely understood. We aimed to evaluate the association between oxygen use and survival in patients with advanced cancer and low oxygen saturation in home care.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study at a primary care practice in suburban Tokyo. Adult patients in home care with advanced cancer demonstrating first low oxygen saturation (less than 90%) detected in home visits were consecutively included in the study. Cox proportional hazards regression was used to investigate the effect of oxygen use on overall survival and survival at home, adjusted for systolic blood pressure, decreased level of consciousness, dyspnea, oral intake, performance status, and cardiopulmonary comorbidity.
Results: Of 433 identified patients with advanced cancer, we enrolled 137 patients (oxygen use, n = 35; no oxygen use, n = 102) who developed low oxygen saturation. In multivariable analysis, the adjusted hazard ratio (HR) of oxygen use was 0.68 (95% confidence interval 0.39–1.17) for death and 0.70 (0.38–1.27) for death at home. In patients with dyspnea, the HR was 0.35 (0.13–0.89) for death and 0.33 (0.11–0.96) for death at home; without dyspnea, it was 1.03 (0.49–2.17) for death and 0.84 (0.36–1.96) for death at home.
Conclusions: Oxygen use was not significantly associated with survival in patients with advanced cancer and low oxygen saturation, after adjusting for potential confounders. It may not be necessary to use oxygen for prolongation of survival in such patients, particularly in those without dyspnea.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is common chronic respiratory disorder, predominantly caused by exposure to cigarette smoke or biomass fuels, and it usually affects older adults. Dyspnea in COPD that is unresponsive to traditional management is a challenging disease complication for both the patient and the health care professional. Off-label use of opioids has been advocated as a pharmacotherapy strategy for refractory dyspnea. However, negative respiratory outcomes are a potential concern with opioids drugs, especially among individuals with COPD. In this review, randomized controlled trials evaluating opioid efficacy among individuals with COPD are reviewed and critically analyzed, and data from observational drug safety studies is also presented. In summary, the evidence in support of using opioids for refractory dyspnea in COPD is minimal and weak, and there is mounting data demonstrating that opioids are associated with increased respiratory-related morbidity and mortality in this population. Therefore, current evidence does not support the broad application of opioids for refractory dyspnea among individuals with COPD. However, there may be subsets of individuals that experience modest improvement in dyspnea with opioids, and better understanding predictors and mechanisms of such opioid responsiveness should be a focus of future research endeavours.
OBJECTIVES: It is unclear whether patients with non-specific dyspnoea are suitable candidates for studies investigating the effectiveness of benzodiazepines against dyspnoea. The objective of this survey was to investigate suitable subjects for studies of benzodiazepines for cancer dyspnoea.
METHODS: A nationwide questionnaire survey was conducted among 536 Japanese-certified palliative care physicians. We randomly selected 268 physicians and inquired about their approach to dyspnoea management in patients with cancer, with and without anxiety, as follows: (1) Administration of a benzodiazepine. (2) Administration or titration of an opioid. We also asked them to consider their approach in the following situations: (1) Opioid-naïve. (2) Low-to-moderate baseline opioid dose. (3) High baseline opioid dose. We assessed the use of specific benzodiazepines separately.
RESULTS: Overall, 192 physicians responded to the questionnaire (71.6%). For patients without anxiety, the proportion of participants reporting that they frequently or very frequently 'administer a benzodiazepine' increased with baseline opioid dose (opioid-naïve: 5.2%, low-to-moderate: 11.5%, high: 26.0%). The proportion of participants reporting that they frequently or very frequently 'administer or titrate an opioid' decreased with baseline opioid dose (opioid-naïve: 83.3%, low-to-moderate: 73.4%, high: 41.1%). The pattern was similar for patients with anxiety, although more respondents said they prescribe benzodiazepine for these patients (naïve: 22.4%, low-to-moderate: 34.4%, high: 45.8%) and fewer prescribed an opioid. Alprazolam and lorazepam are frequently used.
CONCLUSION: Patients with anxiety or receiving a high baseline opioid dose could be potential candidates for future studies investigating the effectiveness of benzodiazepines against cancer dyspnoea.
STUDY OBJECTIVE: Palliative patients often visit the emergency department (ED) with respiratory distress during their end-of-life period. The goal of management is alleviating dyspnea and providing comfort. High-flow nasal cannula may be an alternative oxygen-delivering method for palliative patients with do-not-intubate status. We therefore aim to compare the efficacy of high-flow nasal cannula with conventional oxygen therapy in improving dyspnea of palliative patients with do-not-intubate status who have hypoxemic respiratory failure in the ED.
METHODS: This randomized, nonblinded, crossover study was conducted with 48 palliative patients aged 18 years or older with do-not-intubate status who presented with hypoxemic respiratory failure to the ED of Siriraj Hospital, Bangkok, Thailand. The participants were randomly allocated to conventional oxygen therapy for 60 minutes, followed by high-flow nasal cannula for 60 minutes (n=24) or vice versa (n=24). The primary outcome was modified Borg scale score. The secondary outcomes were numeric rating scale score of dyspnea and vital signs.
RESULTS: Intention-to-treat analysis included 44 patients, 22 in each group. Baseline mean modified Borg scale score was 7.6 (SD 2.2) (conventional oxygen therapy first) and 8.2 (SD 1.8) (high-flow nasal cannula first). At 60 minutes, mean modified Borg scale score in patients receiving conventional oxygen therapy and high-flow nasal cannula was 4.9 (standard of mean 0.3) and 2.9 (standard of mean 0.3), respectively (mean difference 2.0; 95% confidence interval 1.4 to 2.6). Results for the numeric rating scale score of dyspnea were similar to those for the modified Borg scale score. Respiratory rates were lower with high-flow nasal cannula (mean difference 5.9; 95% confidence interval 3.5 to 8.3), and high-flow nasal cannula was associated with a significantly lower first-hour morphine dose.
CONCLUSION: High-flow nasal cannula was superior to conventional oxygen therapy in reducing the severity of dyspnea in the first hour of treatment in patients with do-not-intubate status and hypoxemic respiratory failure.
Purpose: Parenteral morphine is widely used for dyspnea of imminently dying cancer patients, but the outcomes to expect over time remain largely unknown. We examined outcomes after the administration of parenteral morphine infusion over 48 h in cancer patients with a poor performance status.
Methods: This was a multicenter prospective observational study. Inclusion criteria were metastatic/locally advanced cancer, ECOG performance status = 3–4, a dyspnea intensity = 2 on a Support Team Assessment Schedule, Japanese version (STAS-J), and receiving specialized palliative care. After initiating parenteral morphine infusion, we measured dyspnea STAS-J as well as Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale (MDAS), item 9, and Communication Capacity Scale (CCS), item 4, every 6 h over 48 h.
Results: We enrolled 167 patients (median survival = 4 days). The mean age was 70 years, 80 patients (48%) had lung cancer, and 109 (65%) had lung metastases. The mean STAS-J scores decreased from 3.1 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 3.0–3.2) at the baseline to 2.1 (95%CI = 1.9–2.2) at 6 h, and remained 1.6–1.8 over 12–48 h. The proportion of patients with dyspnea relief (STAS-J = 1) increased to 39% at 6 h, and ranged between 49 and 61% over 12–48 h. In contrast, up to 6.6 and 20% of patients showed hyperactive delirium (MDAS item 9 = 2) and an inability to communicate (CCS item 4 = 3), respectively, over 48 h.
Conclusions: Overall, terminal dyspnea was relatively well controlled with parenteral morphine, though a significant number of patients continued to suffer from dyspnea. Future efforts are needed to improve outcomes following standardized dyspnea treatment using patient-reported outcomes for imminently dying patients.
Background: Dyspnea is one of the most common symptoms in patients with advanced disease and terminal illness, associated with poorer quality of life. The efficacy of fan therapy to palliate dyspnea is inconsistent and unclear.
bjective: The aim of this meta-analysis was to evaluate the efficacy of fan therapy for the relief of dyspnea in adults with advanced disease and terminal illness.
Design: The CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, and PsycINFO were searched to retrieve all randomized controlled trials examining the benefits of fan therapy for the relief of dyspnea in patients at the advanced stages of illness. Risk of bias was assessed according to the Cochrane Collaboration standard scheme.
esults: Five studies involving 198 adults were identified. Fan therapy was associated with a significant relief of breathlessness intensity immediately after intervention (mean differences [MDs], -1.01; 95% confidence interval [CI], -1.57 to -0.45; p < 0.001) and 10 minutes after intervention (MDs, -0.90; 95% CI, -1.53 to -0.27; p = 0.005). Long-term application of fan therapy for at least one month was not related to changes of dyspnea severity (MDs, 0.10; 95% CI, -1.14 to 1.35; p = 0.870). However, significant heterogeneity and low quality of the included trials limit applicability of the results in general practice. No difference was found in activity performance, respiratory rate and SpO2, changes in other symptom intensities, and adverse events.
onclusion: Current trials provided low-quality evidence for a significant short-term effect after fan therapy in the relief of dyspnea and no beneficial effect in the long-term application in adults with advanced disease and terminal illness.
Background: Polypharmacy is associated with dyspnea in cross-sectional studies, but associations have not been determined in longitudinal analyses. Statins are commonly prescribed but their contribution to dyspnea is unknown. We determined whether polypharmacy was associated with dyspnea trajectory over time in adults with advanced illness enrolled in a statin discontinuation trial, overall, and in models stratified by statin discontinuation.
Methods: Using data from a parallel-group unblinded pragmatic clinical trial (patients on statins =3 months with life expectancy of 1 month to 1 year, enrolled in the parent study between June 3, 2011, and May 2, 2013, n = 308/381 [81%]), we restricted analyses to patients with available baseline medication count and =1 dyspnea score. Polypharmacy was assessed by self-reported chronic medication count. Dyspnea trajectory group, our primary outcome, was determined over 24 weeks using the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System.
Results: The mean age of the patients was 73.8 years (standard deviation [SD]: ±11.0) and the mean medication count was 11.6 (SD: ±5.0). We identified 3 dyspnea trajectory groups: none (n = 108), mild (n = 130), and moderate–severe (n = 70). Statins were discontinued in 51.8%, 48.5%, and 42.9% of patients, respectively. In multivariable models adjusting for age, sex, diagnosis, and statin discontinuation, each additional medication was associated with 8% (odds ratio [OR] = 1.08 [1.01-1.14]) and 16% (OR = 1.16 [1.08-1.25]) increased risk for mild and moderate–severe dyspnea, respectively. In stratified models, polypharmacy was associated with dyspnea in the statin continuation group only (mild OR = 1.12 [1.01-1.24], moderate–severe OR = 1.24 [1.11-1.39]) versus statin discontinuation (mild OR = 1.03 [0.95-1.12], and moderate–severe OR = 1.09 [0.98-1.22]).
Conclusion: Polypharmacy was strongly associated with dyspnea. Prospective interventions to decrease polypharmacy may impact dyspnea symptoms, especially for statins.
Background: Dyspnea is a common, very distressing symptom in advanced cancer patients that challenges them, their relatives, and healthcare professionals. This narrative review summarizes important literature dealing with the evidence for opioids, benzodiazepines, oxygen, and steroids for treating dyspnea in advanced cancer patients.
Methods: A selective literature search was undertaken in PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library and extended with literature from the reference lists of included studies up to April 2016. Inclusion criteria were that patients were suffering from advanced cancer and were receiving either opioids, benzodiazepines, corticosteroids, or oxygen. The outcome of interest was the reduction of dyspnea measured via a visual analogue scale (VAS), a numerical rating scale (NRS), or a Borg scale. This narrative review describes in detail the findings of 13 studies.
Results: Nine studies deal with the effectiveness of opioids for reducing dyspnea in advanced cancer patients. Five of these found a significant benefit to the use of opioids compared to a placebo. Three found no significant improvements, and two favored combinations of opioids and benzodiazepines. Few high-quality studies were available that used benzodiazepines (n = 3, no difference, significant improvement with midazolam + morphine, significant difference for midazolam) or oxygen (n = 2, both without significant difference). Only one study examined treating dyspnea with steroids in patients with advanced cancer, and that study indicated a benefit of steroids compared to a placebo.
Conclusions: Opioids are the drug of choice for treating refractory dyspnea in advanced cancer patients. Neither benzodiazepines nor oxygen showed significant benefit. In addition, there is insufficient literature available to draw a conclusion about the effectiveness of steroids for treating persistent dyspnea in advanced cancer patients.
CONTEXT: Morphine is recommended as the first-line pharmacological therapy for cancer dyspnea. However, the detailed practice of morphine has not been evaluated, and consensus about other opioids for cancer dyspnea has not been established.
OBJECTIVES: To explore the physician-reported practice of opioid for cancer dyspnea.
METHODS: Nationwide mail-questionnaire survey was conducted among 536 Japanese certified palliative care physicians. We randomly selected 268 and asked the following: 1) how the physicians themselves initiate and use morphine for cancer dyspnea, 2) opioid choice for dyspnea in patients who have already used opioid other than morphine regularly, and 3) opioid choice for dyspnea in patients with various degrees of renal impairment in their daily practice.
RESULTS: Overall, 192 physicians responded (response rate, 71.6%). The major (58.3%) practice of initiating morphine was "immediate-release morphine as needed" in opioid-naïve patients and the mean % increase when they titrate morphine for cancer dyspnea was 29.4±11.3% of the baseline dose. Although "titrate baseline oxycodone" was the most frequent (42.3%) for low-to-moderate-dose regular oxycodone cases, "stepwise switch to morphine" (30.0%) and "add morphine on baseline oxycodone" (27.1%) were the more frequent practices for high-dose regular oxycodone. Regardless of the baseline dose, "add morphine on baseline fentanyl" was the most frequent practice for regular transdermal fentanyl cases. Oxycodone was the most frequent choice in renal insufficiency cases, regardless of its degree.
CONCLUSIONS: Among Japanese palliative care physicians, using oxycodone for cancer dyspnea was relatively popular practice, while fentanyl was not. Oxycodone was the most preferred opioid for cancer dyspnea in the setting of renal insufficiency among Japanese palliative care physicians. We should conduct studies to confirm the safety and effectiveness of these opioid practices for cancer dyspnea.
The treatment of the symptom, dyspnea, involves pharmacological and non-pharmacological measures. Palliative care specialists use fewer common strategies for symptomatic control of dyspnea. Medical practice should always respect the autonomy of the patient and the proposed therapeutic plan should be compatible with his/her preferences. The present case report illustrates the above-mentioned aspects in a patient with asthma-COPD overlap syndrome admitted to a Palliative Care Unit.
Introduction: Early integration of palliative interventions in patients with central airway obstruction (CAO) has shown to reduce patients' distress due to breathlessness and achieve better outcomes at lower cost. This retrospective review was performed to determine whether rigid bronchoscopic interventions alleviated the symptom burden and the requirement for continued mechanical ventilation in patients with CAO in a tertiary care hospital.
Materials and Methods: Detailed records of 105 patients with CAO were retrospectively studied. The Numerical Rating Scale (NRS) score for cough and dyspnea before and after the intervention was noted. A need for an escalation or reduction in level of care was also noted.
Results: The mean NRS score for dyspnea (n = 84) reduced from 7.5 (4-9) (before procedure) to 2.5 (2-6) after intervention (P < 0.01). The mean NRS score for cough (n = 68) also reduced from 6.5 (4-8) (before procedure) to 4 (3-7) after intervention (P < 0.01). Of these patients, bronchoscopic intervention allowed transfer out of the ICU in 14 patients (42%) and immediate withdrawal of mechanical ventilation in 8 patients (42%).
Conclusion: There is an instantaneous valuable palliation of symptoms and improved health-care utilization with airway tumor debulking and stenting. Multidisciplinary interventions with emphasis delivery of palliative care provide better care of patients with CAO.
Advanced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), is characterized by high morbidity and mortality. Patients with COPD and their families experience a range of stresses and suffering from a variety of sources throughout the disease's progression. COPD is the fourth leading cause of death in the world. It exists as a significant contributor to global morbidity and mortality, and it results in substantial economic and social burden. This review provides some key facts regarding disease burden and encourages clinician to familiarize themselves and use both conventional and palliative approach early in the disease progression for a better quality of life.
BACKGROUND: More than 15,000 children die annually in the United States due to an underlying life-limiting disease and the majority of those children experience distressing symptoms, which are not adequately relieved, such as pain and dyspnea. Multimodal analgesia, that is multiple agents, interventions, rehabilitation, psychological modalities, and integrative (nonpharmacologic) therapies, act synergistically for more effective pediatric pain and symptom control with fewer side effects than a single analgesic or modality. However, opioids, such as morphine, fentanyl, hydromorphone, oxycodone, and methadone (in the United Kingdom: diamorphine) remain the mainstay medication to effectively treat pain and dyspnea in children with serious illness.
METHODS: This article reviews commonly used opioids in Pediatric Palliative Care, which a special emphasis on 2 potentially particularly effective multimechanistic opioids: tramadol and methadone.
RESULTS: Methadone, due to its multimechanistic action profile, is possibly among the most effective and most underutilized opioid analgesics in children with severe unrelieved pain at end of life. However, methadone should not be prescribed by those unfamiliar with its use: Its effects should be closely monitored for several days, particularly when it is first started and after any dose changes.
CONCLUSIONS: Tramadol appears to play a key role in treating episodes of inconsolability in children with progressive neurologic, metabolic, or chromosomally based condition with impairment of the central nervous system. However, the recent 2017 United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning against pediatric use of tramadol does not seem to be based on clinical evidence, and therefore puts children at risk for unrelieved pain or increased respiratory depression.
BACKGROUND: Dyspnea is commonly found in most conditions among patients with progressive noncancer disease.
OBJECTIVE: To clarify the effectiveness and safety of opioid administration for the treatment of dyspnea immediately before death in patients with noncancer disease.
METHODS: A retrospective case-series study involving 13 consecutive terminally ill patients who were near death and diagnosed with noncancer disease, and had refractory dyspnea and received opioid therapy, was performed. The authors investigated the route of administration, period, dosage of opioids, intensity of dyspnea-scored according to the Japanese version of the Support Team Assessment Schedule-and clinical course from a review of medical records.
RESULTS: The mean age of the patients was 86.5 ± 7.6years (range: 72-98years). The primary causes of dyspnea that led to opioid administration were heart failure (n = 10) and respiratory failure (n = 3). Oxycodone was used in one patient who experienced a complication of chronic renal failure; morphine was used in the other 12 patients. The route of opioid administration was continuous infusions in 11 patients, suppository in one, and oral administration in one. The final dose of oral morphine equivalents was 20.1 ± 8.1 mg/d (range: 5-36 mg [median: 18 mg]). All patients improved in symptom score after opioid administration. The score was significantly decreased from 3.2 ± 0.7 at the beginning of opioid administration to 1.2 ± 0.6 at final estimation ( P < .001). No severe adverse events occurred.
CONCLUSIONS:: Low-dose opioid administration in patients with terminally ill noncancer improved dyspnea and occurred no severe adverse events.