Medical emergencies at the end of life require recognition of patients at risk, so that a comprehensive assessment and plan of care can be put in place. Frequently, the interventions depend on the patient's underlying prognosis, location of care, and goals of care. The mere presence of a medical emergency often rapidly changes an estimated prognosis. Education of the patient and family may help empower them to adequately handle many situations when clinicians are not available.
Palliative care is an important component of the medical response to pandemics and other health emergencies. The principles of palliative care do not change, but the practice of palliative care has to change as a result of factors such as greater demand and infection control measures. This article makes suggestions for palliative care provision during a pandemic (in developed countries), based on a limited review of the literature and personal experience of the ongoing pandemic (COVID-19 infection).
Context: The COVID-19 pandemic is spreading across the world. Many patients will not be suitable for mechanical ventilation owing to the underlying health conditions, and they will require a conservative approach including palliative care management for their important symptom burden.
Objectives: To develop a management plan for patients who are not suitable for mechanical ventilation that is tailored to the stage their COVID-19 disease.
Methods: Patients were identified as being stable, unstable, or at the end of life using the early warning parameters for COVID-19. Furthermore, a COVID-19–specific assessment tool was developed locally, focusing on key symptoms observed in this population which assess dyspnoea, distress, and discomfort. This tool helped to guide the palliative care management as per patients' disease stage.
Results: A management plan for all patients' (stable, unstable, end of life) was created and implemented in acute hospitals. Medication guidelines were based on the limitations in resources and availability of drugs. Staff members who were unfamiliar with palliative care required simple, clear instructions to follow including medications for key symptoms such as dyspnoea, distress, fever, and discomfort. Nursing interventions and family involvement were adapted as per patients' disease stage and infection control requirements.
Conclusion: Palliative care during the COVID-19 pandemic needs to adapt to an emergency style of palliative care as patients can deteriorate rapidly and require quick decisions and clear treatment plans. These need to be easily followed up by generalist staff members caring for these patients. Furthermore, palliative care should be at the forefront to help make the best decisions, give care to families, and offer spiritual support.
Context: The COVID-19 pandemic created a rapid and unprecedented shift in our medical system. Medical providers, teams, and organizations have needed to shift their visits away from face-to-face visits and toward telehealth (both by phone and through video). Palliative care teams who practice in the community setting are faced with a difficult task: How do we actively triage the most urgent visits while keeping our vulnerable patients safe from the pandemic?
Measures: The following are recommendations created by the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Palliative Care and Support Services team to help triage and coordinate for timely, safe, and effective palliative care in the community and outpatient setting during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Patients are initially triaged based on location followed by acuity. Interdisciplinary care is implemented using strict infection control guidelines in the setting of limited personal protective equipment (PPE) resources. We implement thorough screening for COVID-19 symptoms at multiple levels before a patient is seen by a designated provider.
Conclusions/Lessons Learned: We recommend active triaging, communication, frequent screening for COVID-19 symptoms for palliative care patients been evaluated in the community setting. An understanding of infection risk, mutual consent between designated providers, patients, and their families are crucial to maintaining safety while delivering community-based palliative care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
BACKGROUND: High incidence of treatable oral conditions has been reported among palliative patients. However, a large proportion of palliative patients lose their ability to communicate their sufferings. Therefore, it may lead to under-reporting of oral conditions among these patients. This review systematically synthesized the published evidence on the presence of oral conditions among palliative patients, the impact, management, and challenges in treating these conditions.
METHODS: An integrative review was undertaken with defined search strategy from five databases and manual search through key journals and reference list. Studies which focused on oral conditions of palliative patients and published between years 2000 to 2017 were included.
RESULTS: Xerostomia, oral candidiasis and dysphagia were the three most common oral conditions among palliative patients, followed by mucositis, orofacial pain, taste change and ulceration. We also found social and functional impact of having certain oral conditions among these patients. In terms of management, complementary therapies such as acupuncture has been used but not well explored. The lack of knowledge among healthcare providers also posed as a challenge in treating oral conditions among palliative patients.
CONCLUSIONS: This review is first in its kind to systematically synthesize the published evidence regarding the impact, management and challenges in managing oral conditions among palliative patients. Although there is still lack of study investigating palliative oral care among specific group of patients such as patients with dementia, geriatric or pediatric advanced cancer patients, this review has however provided baseline knowledge that may guide health care professionals in palliative settings.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a rapidly progressive and fatal neurodegenerative disorder with enormous palliative care (PC) needs that begin at the time of diagnosis. Although it is an uncommon disease, clinicians who work in PC or hospice are likely to encounter ALS somewhat frequently given the needs of patients with ALS with regard to psychosocial support, symptom management, advance care planning (ACP), caregiver support, and end-of-life care. As such, PC clinicians should be familiar with the basic principles of ALS symptoms, treatments, disease course, and issues around ACP. This article, written by a team of neurologists and PC physicians, seeks to provide PC clinicians with tips to improve their comfort and skills caring for patients with ALS and their families.
The aim of the study is to evaluate the intensity of symptoms, and any treatment and therapeutic procedures received by advanced chronic patients in nursing homes. A multi-centre prospective study was conducted in six nursing homes for five months. A nurse trainer selected palliative care patients from whom the sample was randomly selected for inclusion. The Edmonton Symptoms Assessment Scale, therapeutic procedures, and treatment were evaluated. Parametric and non-parametric tests were used to evaluate month-to-month differences and differences between those who died and those who did not. A total of 107 residents were evaluated. At the end of the follow-up, 39 had (34.6%) died. All symptoms (p < 0.050) increased in intensity in the last week of life. Symptoms were more intense in those who had died at follow-up (p < 0.05). The use of aerosol sprays (p = 0.008), oxygen therapy (p < 0.001), opioids (p < 0.001), antibiotics (p = 0.004), and bronchodilators (p = 0.003) increased in the last week of life. Peripheral venous catheters (p = 0.022), corticoids (p = 0.007), antiemetics (p < 0.001), and antidepressants (p < 0.05) were used more in the patients who died. In conclusion, the use of therapeutic procedures (such as urinary catheters, peripheral venous catheter placement, and enteral feeding) and drugs (such as antibiotics, anxiolytics, and new antidepressant prescriptions) should be carefully considered in this clinical setting.
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.
We aim to clarify the efficacy of early palliative balloon pulmonary valvuloplasty (BPV) in neonates and young infants (< 60 days) with tetralogy of Fallot (TOF). We performed palliative BPV in 31 subjects, regardless of the presence of cyanosis, with Z score of the pulmonary valve diameter (PVD) less than - 2.00. Primary and secondary endpoints were to avoid early surgical interventions for subjects within 6 months of age and to undergo the pulmonary valve-sparing procedure at corrective surgery, respectively. We studied factors associated with these outcomes among them. BPV was performed at 19 days (14–33) of age and with a weight of 3.34 kg (3.02–3.65). Systemic oxygen saturation, Z score of the PVD, and pulmonary arterial index (PAI) were 87% (81–91), - 3.56 (- 4.15 to - 2.62), and 128 mm2/m2 (102–157), respectively. There were 16 and 13 subjects who avoided early surgical interventions and transannular repair, respectively. At the primary endpoint, there was no significant difference in age, weight, systemic oxygen saturation, and Z score of the PVD and PAI between the groups. However, there was a significant difference in the infundibular morphology (severe: mild-to-moderate, 8:8 vs 13:2, P = 0.029) between the groups. We performed prophylactic BPV within 30 days after birth in 7 acyanotic TOF patients with severe infundibular obstruction, among whom 5 avoided early surgical intervention. At the secondary endpoint, there were no significant difference in weight, systemic oxygen saturation, but in sex, age at BPV, and Z score of the PVD. Early palliative BPV prevented early surgical intervention in half of the neonates and young infants with TOF, which depended upon the degree of infundibular obstruction. However, early palliative BPV did not contribute to avoid transanular patch right-ventricular outflow repair among them.
INTRODUCTION: Palliative care (PC) aims to treat symptoms independently of the disease. In many medical disciplines, including oncology, there is an emphasis on personalizing treatment, identifying the most effective therapeutic option by studying the genetic heritage of the patient and the molecular characteristics of the disease. PC, on the other hand, encompasses the overall (physical and spiritual) well-being of the patient and his or her caregivers. The increasing use of early PC and its integration with oncology could represent a fruitful collaboration among specialists.
CASE DESCRIPTION: We present the case of a 79-year-old woman with advanced breast cancer attending our institute who was referred to our PC Unit because of continuous ear pain, paresthesia around the mouth, strabismus, and facial dysesthesia. The patient was in good clinical condition (Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group 1) and was undergoing chemotherapy at the time. For these reasons, the PC physician carefully assessed the pain characteristics and differential diagnosis and discussed them with the oncologist, radiologist, and neurologist. Joint consultation led to a specific study of Meckel cave by MRI, revealing an extrameningeal gasserian ganglion metastasis, a very rare localization of breast cancer.
CONCLUSION: We present a case that underlines the importance of specialized PC assessment not limited to the control of symptoms. The search for the etiopathogenesis of a patient's symptoms and the evaluation of overall clinical conditions may be necessary to plan appropriate diagnostic evaluations, target palliative therapies, and achieve effective symptom control.
Death is an inevitable part of living. There are undoubtedly clinical and psychological challenges when any individual is passing from life to death. For a person with a long-term condition such as diabetes, these challenges can be compounded and impact on the care and experience of both the individual and their families and carers. It is estimated that about 500,000 people die each year in the United Kingdom; of these approximately 75,000 will have diabetes. The vast majority of people with diabetes who die do not do so as a result of a metabolic diabetes emergency such as diabetic ketoacidosis or hyperosmolar hyperglycaemic state. Whilst diabetes is listed as one of the top 10 causes of death in developed countries, death occurs more commonly as a result of cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory disease, or cancer. Life-long care of people with diabetes centres on glycaemic management and other modifiable clinical elements such as blood pressure, renal function, and cholesterol. These factors may become less important to healthcare professionals caring for the individual who is approaching the end of their life and for safety and holistic reasons clinical targets may be made more liberal. For the person dying and their families and carers this may be a difficult concept to accept. This article is based on the Diabetes UK (2018) Diabetes and End of Life: Clinical Care Recommendations. Offering a comprehensive guide to the management of diabetes through all the stages of dying it provides information on hypoglycaemia and hyperglycaemia prevention and treatment, and the care of people taking glucocorticoid therapy with a previously known and not known diagnosis of diabetes. Controversial areas of care are discussed where there has been no clear consensus.
Patients with tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) have impaired pulmonary flow due to an obstructed right ventricular outflow tract (RVOT), pulmonary valve or supravalvular stenosis, or hypoplastic pulmonary arteries. In newborns, alprostadil infusion provides the patency of the arterial duct, ensuring adequate pulmonary flow. As the next stage of treatment, some children may be referred for Blalock–Taussig or central aortopulmonary anastomosis as well as Brock operation with relief of RVOT obstruction.1-3 However, in some cases, interventional procedures including balloon valvuloplasty, RVOT, or arterial duct stent implantation seem to be the best option.
There is mounting recognition that some of the most urgent problems of adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) are the prevention, diagnosis, and management of heart failure (HF). Recent expert consensus and position statements not only emphasize a specific and pressing need to tackle HF in ACHD (ACHD-HF) but also highlight the difficulty of doing so given a current sparsity of data. Some of the challenges will be addressed by this review. The authors are from 3 different centres; each centre has an established subspeciality ACHD-HF clinic and is able to provide heart transplant, multiorgan transplant, and mechanical support for patients with ACHD. Appropriate care of this complex population requires multidisciplinary ACHD-HF teams evaluate all possible treatment options. The risks and benefits of nontransplant ACHD surgery, percutaneous structural and electrophysiological intervention, and ongoing conservative management must be considered alongside those of transplant strategies. In our approach, advanced care planning and palliative care coexist with the consideration of advanced therapies. An ethos of shared decision making, guided by the patient's values and preferences, strengthens clinical care, but requires investment of time as well as skilled communication. In this review, we aim to offer practical real-world advice for managing these patients, supported by scientific data where it exists.
BACKGROUND: To provide appropriate cost-effective care for an ageing population, realignment of care provision to conditions common in advanced age, notably, dementia and multi-morbidities is required. The use of outcome measures in practice may enable this.
AIM: A collaborative baseline audit was undertaken to understand how best to implement outcome measures into services for people with dementia across clinical settings.
METHODS: An academic institution set up a 6-month collaborative baseline audit in 11 English sites. Measures comprised: symptoms/concerns (Integrated Palliative care Outcome Scale for Dementia); Phase of Illness; functional status (Australia-modified Karnofsky Performance Scale); and dementia severity (Functional Assessment Staging).
FINDINGS: Measures were completed at first assessment for 225 people with dementia across nine sites. Their completion promoted comprehensive assessments, but challenges also existed, including recording the prevalence/severity of non-physical symptoms by proxy.
CONCLUSIONS: The joining together of clinical academic expertise enabled mobilisation of expert knowledge into and from clinical practice.
Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is often a progressive and ultimately fatal disease. It is characterized by an elevated mean pulmonary arterial pressure due to disease of the small pulmonary arterioles. PAH leads to a constellation of symptoms including dyspnea, fatigue, syncope, chest discomfort, and peripheral edema. Disease-targeted therapies for PAH produce symptomatic and functional improvement, but long-term survival remains uncommon without lung transplantation. Palliative care is appropriate to support patients with advanced PAH who typically have a high symptom burden. However, palliative care has historically focused on supporting patients with malignant disease, rather than progressive, chronic disease such as PAH. Our aim is to provide palliative care clinicians with a background in the classification, pathophysiology, and modern treatment of PAH. This review describes disease-targeted therapies and their effects on symptoms, physical functioning, and health-related quality of life. We also review the unique physiology of PAH and its implication for palliative interventions. Pharmacological interactions with, and precautions related to commonly used palliative care medications are discussed.
Context: The effect of methadone on corrected QT interval (QTc) in patients with cancer pain is not well-known.
Objectives: To describe and characterize the effect of low-, moderate-, and high-dose enteral methadone on QTc interval in patients with cancer.
Methods: Retrospective cohort study including patients prescribed enteral methadone during the 27-month study period. Participants were divided into 3 methadone daily dose groups: <30 (low dose), 30 to 59 (moderate dose), =60 (high dose) mg. The primary outcome was the incidence of QTc prolongation (>450 ms for females and >430 ms for males). Secondary outcomes included the magnitude of change in QTc after starting methadone, the incidence of clinically significant QTc prolongation (>500 ms) and the prevalence of torsades de pointes and syncope.
Results: Two hundred three patients met study inclusion criteria: 91 (45%) low dose, 52 (26%) moderate dose, and 60 (29%) high dose. Incidence of QTc prolongation for low-, moderate-, and high-dose groups was 50 (55%), 37 (71%), and 43 (72%), respectively (P = .039, low vs high dose). Incidence of clinically significant QTc prolongation was 10 (11%), 4 (8%), and 7 (12%) for low-, moderate-, and high-dose groups. For patients without QTc prolongation prior to initiating methadone, 62% of moderate-dose patients and 67% of high-dose patients had QTc prolongation, while taking methadone.
Conclusion: This study found a notably high incidence of QTc prolongation in patients with cancer using enteral methadone. Future studies should aim to determine the risk of adverse cardiac effects in the cancer population and determine appropriate monitoring of methadone for pain management.
Faecal incontinence can be a distressing and undignified experience, and is particularly a care delivery need for those at the end of life. There are various publications by national bodies including NHS England, the Department of Health, NHS Scotland and others, discussed in this article, to inform readers of the best way to care for someone experiencing faecal incontinence who is being looked after through palliative care in the community. The article will also discuss the application of recommended faecal collection devices and some of the associated risks. The devices discussed are: anal pouches, rectal tubes and catheters, and rectal trumpets. The article aims to inform the practice of community and district nurses providing palliative care.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: In this review, we summarize the recently published literature that demonstrates the efficacy and safety of autologous haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (AHSCT) in multiple sclerosis (MS) and highlight the importance of supportive care required for the safe and well-tolerated delivery of AHSCT.
RECENT FINDINGS: MS is an autoimmune inflammatory and degenerative disorder of the central nervous system (CNS). In the majority of patients, the illness runs a relapsing remitting course (RRMS), culminating in a secondary progressive phase with gradual accumulation of fixed disabilities. Currently available disease-modifying therapies suppress CNS inflammation but have a limited effect on preventing disease progression for which there remains no effective therapy. Over the last two decades, there has been increasing evidence that AHSCT is a highly effective therapeutic strategy for treatment-resistant inflammatory types of MS, especially RRMS. Concerns about the safety of AHSCT in MS, usually a nonlife-threatening disease, have previously limited its use. However, AHSCT can now be delivered safely with major long-term benefits because of increasing transplant centre experience, judicious patient selection and good supportive care.
SUMMARY: MS is currently the fastest growing indication for AHSCT in Europe. Supportive care before, during and after the transplant period is key to its successful delivery of AHSCT.
La démarche palliative en établissement ainsi que l'appropriation de celle-ci reste encore un enjeu de taille. Le lien étroit entre l'accompagnement des patients en fin de vie et la mise en oeuvre d'une dynamique participative doit susciter l'adhésion de l'ensemble d'une équipe. Une étude qualitative
sous forme de questionnaires auprès d'aide-soignant(e)s et d'infimier(e)s issus de différents services de chirurgies met en évidence un manque de temps, de moyens humains et relationnels pour la réalisation optimale de cette démarche dans la spécialité chirurgicale. Malgré une volonté certaine d'instaurer un staff pluriprofessionnel, il apparaît une méconnaissance de ce modèle "sociétal" destiné à prévenir la souffrance des soigants dans l'exercice de leur profession.