Purpose: The aim of this study was to compare symptom expression in advanced cancer patients with depression and anxiety and in patients with no such symptoms.
Methods: Secondary analysis of a previous study assessing the role of an acute palliative supportive care unit (APSCU) in a comprehensive cancer center. Patients completed the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) at admission (T0) and 7 days after or at discharge (T7).
Results: Three hundred-fourteen consecutive cancer patients admitted to the APSCU were surveyed. Eighty-six and 66 patients improved their level of depression and anxiety, respectively (passing from = 4 to 0–3, from T0 to T7), after that palliative care intervention resulted in a significant improvement of the other symptoms. Changes were statistically significant for both symptoms (P < 0.0005). Patients admitted for uncontrolled pain were more likely to be anxious, while patients admitted for other symptoms or end-of-life care were more likely to be depressed. The presence of anxiety and depression (= 4/10 on ESAS) was significantly associated with a higher level of symptom expression at admission and at T7 (P < 0.0005). In patients presenting both psychological symptoms, symptom expression was significantly more relevant in comparison with patients not reporting moderate-severe psychological symptoms. Pain and depression were independently associated with anxiety at T0. Variables independently associated with depression at T0 were drowsiness, appetite, and anxiety.
Conclusions: Psychological symptoms of ESAS concur to hyper-express some symptoms and make symptom control more difficult. A clear association between anxiety and depression exists.
AIM: The aim of this study was to assess the factors which influence the care pathway after discharge from an acute palliative supportive care unit (APSCU).
METHODS: Patients' demographics, indications for admission, kind of admission, the presence of a caregiver, awareness of prognosis, data on anticancer treatments in the last 30 days, ongoing treatment (on/off or uncertain), the previous care setting, analgesic consumption, and duration of admission were recorded. The Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) at admission and at time of discharge (or the day before death), CAGE (cut down, annoy, guilt, eye-opener), and the Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale (MDAS), were used. At time of discharge, the subsequent referral to other care settings (death, home, home care, hospice, oncology), and the pathway of oncologic treatment were reconsidered (on/off, uncertain).
RESULTS: A total of 314 consecutive cancer patients admitted to the APSCU were surveyed. Factors independently associated with on-therapy were the lack of a caregiver, home discharge, and short hospital admission, in comparison with off-treatment, and less admission for other symptoms, shorter hospital admission, discharge at home, and better well-being, when compared with "uncertain." Similarly, many factors were associated with discharge setting, but the only factor independently associated with discharge home was being "on-therapy."
CONCLUSIONS: The finding of this study is consistent with an appropriate selection of patients after being discharged by an APSCU, that works as a bridge between active treatments and supportive/palliative care, according the concept of early and simultaneous care.
AIM: The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between delirium and symptom expression in patients with advanced cancer admitted to an acute supportive/palliative care unit (ASPCU).
METHODS: A consecutive sample of patients with advanced cancer who were admitted to an ASPCU was prospectively assessed for a period of 10 months. The Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) and the MDAS (Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale) were measured at admission (T0) and after 7 days of palliative care (T7).
RESULTS: Two hundred forty-six patients had complete data regarding MDAS measurements, at either T0 and T7. Of these, 75 (30.5%) and 63 patients (25.6%) had delirium at T0 and after a week of palliative care (T7), with a decrease in the frequency of delirium of 4.9% (from 30.5% to 25.6%); that means that 16% of patients with delirium improved their cognitive status after initiation of palliative care. Intensities of pain, depression, poor well-being, and global ESAS were significantly higher in patients with delirium. Patients who did not have delirium at T0 but developed delirium during admission after 1 week of palliative care had a higher level of symptom expression for pain, weakness, nausea, anxiety, dyspnea, appetite, and consequently global ESAS. Patients who did not develop delirium at any time had a relevant decrease in intensity of all ESAS items after 1 week of palliative care. The decrease of symptom intensity was significant for pain, insomnia, appetite, poor well-being, and global ESAS in patients with delirium either at T0 and T7, although these differences were less relevant than those observed in patients without delirium. In patients with delirium at T0 who improved their cognitive function at T7 (no delirium), significant changes were found in most ESAS items.
CONCLUSION: Symptom expression is amplified in patients with delirium, whereas patients without delirium may be more responsive to palliative treatments with a significant decrease in intensity of ESAS items.
IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTICE: Symptom expression is amplified in patients with cancer who have delirium, whereas patients without delirium may be more responsive to palliative treatments with a significant decrease in symptom intensity.
BACKGROUND: To assess the response to ketamine in patients with difficult pain syndromes.
METHODS: The charts of patients with uncontrolled pain despite opioid dose escalation of at least two opioids or a combination of them, selected for a burst of ketamine and midazolam were reviewed. One hundred mg/day of ketamine and midazolam 15 mg/day by a continuous intravenous infusion for about 48 hours was offered to patients.
RESULTS: Forty-four patients received a burst of ketamine. Ten patients did not achieve any improvement. Pain intensity decreased from a mean of 7.8 (SD, 1.6) to 2.8 (SD, 1.3) (P<0.0005). The outcome was considered optimal, good, and mild in 24, 9, and 1 patients, respectively. Adverse effects attributable to ketamine did not have relevant intensity and no patient discontinued the treatment due to psychomimetic adverse effects.
CONCLUSIONS: This data suggests that a burst of ketamine and midazolam at low doses, may reverse an unfavourable opioid response, assisting the opioid switching. Although the role of ketamine remains controversial, it should not deter physicians to do not use that in specific conditions.
The aim of this study is to investigate the relationship between delirium and symptom expression in advanced cancer patients admitted to palliative care services. This is a secondary analysis of a consecutive sample of advanced cancer patients who were admitted to home care and hospices, and prospectively assessed for a period of 10 months. The Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) and the MDAS (Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale) were measured at admission (T0) and after seven days of home care or hospice care (T7). Of the eight hundred and forty-eight patients screened in the period, 585 were not considered in the analysis for various reasons. The mean age was 72.1 years (SD 13.7), and 146 patients were males (55.5%). The mean Karnofsky status recorded at T0 is 34.1 (SD = 6.69). The mean duration palliative care assistance is 38.4 days (SD = 48, range 2–220). Of 263 patients who had a MDAS available at T0, 110 patients (41.8%) had a diagnosis of delirium. Of them, 167 patients had complete data regarding MDAS measurement, either at T0 and T7. A larger number of patients (n 167, 63.5%) had delirium after a week of palliative care. Patients with delirium are likely to be older, to have a lower Karnofsky level at T0, and to be home care patients. At T0, weakness, nausea, drowsiness, lack of appetite, and well-being are associated with delirium. At T7, weakness, poor appetite, and poor well-being are significantly associated with delirium. 27% of patients who had a normal cognitive status at T0 developed delirium at T7. In patients with delirium, an improvement in the cognitive status corresponds to a significant improvement in weakness, depression, and appetite. Conversely, the occurrence of delirium in patients who had a normal cognitive status at admission significantly increases the level depression, while the level of weakness and appetite decrease. Symptom expression is amplified in patients with delirium admitted to home care or hospices, while patients without delirium can be more responsive to palliative treatments with a significant decrease in intensity of ESAS items
AIM: The aim of this study was to assess the Personalized Dyspnea Intensity Goal, and the achievement of Personalized Goal Response and Patient Global impression, after comprehensive symptom management. The secondary outcome was to assess factors related to personalized goal response.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: Advanced cancer patients admitted to palliative care units rated pain and symptoms intensity, and their Personalized Dyspnea Intensity Goal , by using the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Score (ESAS). After a comprehensive symptom management, achievement of target patients' response and Patient Global Impression were evaluated.
RESULTS: 279 patients were analyzed in this study. The mean Personalized Dyspnea Intensity Goal at T0 and T7 were 0.97 (SD 1.3), and 0.71 (SD 2.1), respectively. 263 (94.2%) indicated a Personalized Dyspnea Intensity Goal of =3 as a target at T0. Patients perceived a bit better, a better improvement, and a much better improvement with a mean decrease in dyspnea intensity of – 2.1, –3.5, and -4.3 points on the dyspnea intensity scale, respectively. In 60 patients (21.5 %), dyspnea intensity did not change, and in 4.7%, dyspnea intensity worsened. Patients perceived a Minimal Clinically Important Difference (little worse) with a mean increase in dyspnea intensity of 0.10, and they perceived a worse with a mean increase of 1.7 points. Higher dyspnea intensity at T0 and lower dyspnea intensity at T7 were independently related to Patient Global Impression. At T7, 93 (33.3%) patients achieved their Personalized Goal Response, based on Personalized Dyspnea Intensity. Patient Dyspnea Goal Response was associated with Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale score and Personalized Dyspnea Intensity Goal at T0, and inversely associated with dyspnea intensity at T0 and T7, and lower Karnofsky level. For Patient Dyspnea Goal Response, no significant differences among categories of dyspnea intensity were found (P>0.05).
CONCLUSION: Patient Dyspnea Goal Response and Patient Global Impression seem to be relevant for evaluating the effects of a comprehensive management of symptoms, including dyspnea, assisting decision making process. Some factors may be implicated in determining the individual target and clinical response.
AIM: Death rattle is a dramatic sign in the dying patient. Existing studies with anticholinergic agents are controversial. The aim of this study was to assess the efficacy of hyoscine butylbromide (HB), given prophylactically in comparsion with HB administered once death rattle occurs.
METHODS: Dying patients having a score of =3 in the Richmond Agitation-Sedation Scale—palliative version were included in the study. HB (60 mg/day) was given when DR occurred (Group 1) or as pre-emptive treatment (Group 2). The onset of DR (death rattle free time) and intensity of DR were recorded at intervals until death.
RESULTS: Eighty-one and 51 patients were randomized to group 1 and 2, respectively. Patients in group 2 survived longer than those in group 1 (p<0.05). Death rattle occurred in 49 (60.5%) and 3 patients (5.9%) in group 1 and 2, respectively ( p= 0.001). A significant difference in the number of patients reporting death rattle was found at intervals examined (30 min, 1 hour, and then every 6 hours until death (p= 0.001). In group 1 and 2, DRFT was 20.4 (20.5), and 27.3 hours (25.2), respectively (p= 0.001). In group 1, the treatment was considered effective in 10 patients (20.4%) only, after a mean of 14.4 hours (SD= 8.57).
CONCLUSION: The prophylactic use of HB is an efficient method to prevent death rattle, while the late administration produce a limited response, confirming data from traditional studies performed with anticholinergics. This could be considered a new paradygm to manage a difficult and dramatic sign, such as death rattle.
Palliative care is patient and family-centered care that optimizes quality of life by anticipating, preventing, and treating suffering when "curative" therapies are futile. In the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), critically ill patients receive life-sustaining therapies with the goal of restoring or maintaining organ function. Palliative Care in the ICU is a widely discussed topic and it is increasingly applied in clinics. It encompasses symptoms control and end-of-life management, communication with relatives and setting goals of care ensuring dignity in death and decision-making power. However, effective application of Palliative Care in ICU presupposes specific knowledge and training which anesthesiologists and critical care physicians may lack. Moreover, logistic issues such protocols for patients' selection, application models and triggers for consultation of external experts are still matter of debate.The aim of this review is to provide the anesthesiologists and intensivists an overview of the aims, current evidence and practical advices about the application of palliative care in ICU.
We describe a patient with advanced cancer whose severe symptoms of congestive heart failure were successfully treated with dobutamine. The intermittent intravenous administration of dobutamine 5 micrograms/kg/min for 3 hr per day at home enabled control of dyspnea, leg edema, and pain, and increased urine output after 1 day. An improvement in renal function was observed in the following days. The mechanism and the utility of a palliative approach with dobutamine are discussed.
The aim of this review is to present the way in which episodic breathlessness (EB) has been recognized over the years, with regard to definition, characteristics, and management of these acute episodes that have serious consequences for patients. EB is characterized by a sudden increase in intensity of dyspnea over a short duration of time, leading to high levels of anxiety. A significant aggravation of dyspnea may occur in patients with a background of dyspnea or intermittently even without basal breathlessness. Often, known precipitating factors may trigger EB. Flares of breathlessness are accompanied by degrees of psychological distress, although it is unclear whether psychological factors may precede or be induced by EB. In any case, there is a reinforcing circuit. The duration of EB ranges from 10-30 min. Given the specific temporal pattern, requiring rapid intervention, substances with a short onset of action are suitable to overlap this phenomenon. Short-onset opioids could provide a clinical effect overlapping the onset and duration of an episode, resembling what has been largely reported for breakthrough pain. Although data are still insufficient to suggest specific recommendations, strategies such as avoiding exertion, pacing or using devices, or keeping calm have been described. Few controlled studies have investigated the effects of different formulations of opioids. Some data were gathered from studies assessing the pre-emptive use of rapid onset opioids, such as transmucosal preparations of fentanyl, followed by a provocative test, while other studies attempted to reproduce real-life conditions, given as needed. All these trials were insufficiently powered to address the efficacy of fentanyl products over oral morphine or placebo, reflecting the difficulties in patient recruiting and finalizing the studies. Strategies to prevent the occurrence of EB should be taken into consideration, including optimization of the condition of persistent dyspnea or treating psychologic or environmental causes.
BACKGROUND: A supportive palliative care unit (SPCU) may have a positive impact on patients' care. The aim of this study was to compare the pattern of patients admitted to a specialized SPCU and to a traditional oncologic ward (OW) in a consecutive sample of advanced cancer patients.
METHODS: Data on patients demographics, reasons for and kind of admission, care-giver, anticancer treatments, being on/off treatment or uncertain, origin setting, who proposed hospital admission, the use of opioids, and hospitalization were gathered. The same parameters were recorded at discharge. A follow-up was performed by phone 1 month after discharge.
RESULTS: Two-hundred patients were surveyed. Awareness of disease was more complete in OW patients (P = 0.001). Uncontrolled pain and symptoms were the prevalent reasons for admission to SPCU (P < 0.0005). Toxicity from chemotherapy was more frequently reported by OW patients (P = 0.001). SPCU patients received higher doses of opioids (P = 0.004). More SPCU patients were referred from home and were discharged home (P < 0.0005 and P = 0.018, respectively). Emergency admissions were more frequently reported in OW patients (P < 0.0005). One month after, more SPCU patients were at home and were still on active treatment (P = 0.002, and P = 0.05, respectively). More OW patients died within 1 month (P = 0.001).
CONCLUSION: SPCU allows a better planning admission to hospital and a better care trajectory in advanced cancer patients in comparison to a busy OW, where unselected emergencies more frequently occur.
BACKGROUND: The aim of this paper is to collect data on the practice of palliative care, withholding and withdrawal of life-sustaining therapies, and management of end of life (EOL) in Italian intensive care units (ICUs).
METHODS: Web-based survey among Italian anesthesiologists endorsed by the Italian Society of Anesthesiology Analgesia Reanimation and Intensive Care (SIAARTI). The survey consists of 27 close-ended and 2 open-ended questions.
RESULTS: Eight hundred and five persons responded to the full list of questions. The highest proportion of respondents was of 36-45 years of age (34%) and catholic (66%). Almost 70% of responders declared that palliative/supportive care are applied in their ICU in case of futility of intensive treatments. Decision on withdrawing/withholding of life-sustaining treatments resulted from team consensus in most cases (58%). In more than 70% of responders' ICUs, there is no collaboration with palliative/supportive care experts. Systematic recording of most frequent symptoms experienced by critically ill patients (e.g., pain, dyspnea, thirst) was not common. Vasopressors, extracorporeal therapies, blood component transfusions and invasive monitoring were the most commonly modified/interrupted measures in case of futility. Almost 85% of respondents have not received training in palliative/supportive care. The proportion of respondents whose institution has a palliative care team and who had training in palliative care was not homogenous across the country.
CONCLUSIONS: These data suggest that training in palliative care and its clinical application should be implemented in Italy. Efforts should be made to improve and homogenize the management of dying patients in ICU.
AIM: The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of delirium in advanced cancer patients admitted to different palliative care services in Italy and possible related factors. The secondary outcome was to assess the changes of delirium after 1 week of palliative care.
METHODS: A consecutive sample of patients was screened for delirium in period of 1 year in seven palliative care services. General data, including primary tumor, age, gender, concomitant disease, palliative prognostic score (PaP), and Karnofsky status, were collected. Possible causes or factors associated with delirium were looked for. The Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale was used to assess physical and psychological symptoms and the Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale (MDAS) to assess the cognitive status of patients, at admission (T0) and 1 week after palliative care (T7).
RESULTS: Of 848 patients screened, 263 patients were evaluated. Sixty-six patients had only the initial evaluation. The mean Karnofsky status was 34.1 (SD = 6.69); the mean PaP score at admission was 6.9 (SD = 3.97). The mean duration of palliative care assistance, equivalent to survival, was 38.4 days (SD = 48, range 2–220). The mean MDAS values at admission and after 1 week of palliative care were 6.9 (SD = 6.71) and 8.8 (SD = 8.26), respectively. One hundred ten patients (41.8%) and 167 patients (67.3%) had MDAS values = 7 at admission and after 1 week of palliative care, respectively. Age, dehydration, cachexia, chemotherapy in the last three months, and intensity of drowsiness and dyspnea were independently associated with a MDAS > 7. A worsening of drowsiness, the use of opioids, and the use of corticosteroids were independently associated with changes of MDAS from T0 to T7.
CONCLUSION: Although the prevalence of delirium seems to be similar to that reported in other acute settings, delirium tended to worsen or poorly responded to a palliative care treatment. Some clinical factors were independently associated with delirium. This information is relevant for decision-making when delirium does not change despite a traditional intervention. Continuous assessment of delirium should be performed in these settings to detect deterioration of cognitive function. Further studies should elucidate whether an earlier approach to palliative care would decrease the prevalence of delirium at a late stage of disease.
Aim: To assess the prevalence and intensity of constipation in advanced-cancer patients referred to palliative care, and to assess changes after one week of specialist palliative care.
Methods: Prospective multicenter study in advanced patients for a period of one year. At admission (T0), age, gender, primary tumor, concomitant diseases, Karnofsky status, Palliative prognostic score (PaP) Edmonton Symptom Assessment scale (ESAS), MDAS (Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale), and bowel function index (BFI) were collected. In BFI, high values represent severe constipation. The use of medication was also recorded, as well as possible causes of constipation. The same parameters were recorded one week after admission for palliative care (T7).
Results: A total of 246 patients were screened for constipation. The mean BFI at T0 was 42.4 (SD = 26.92). One hundred and sixty-three patients (66.3%) had a BFI >28. The mean BFI at T7 was 35.7 (SD = 28.8), with a significant decrease from T0 to T7 (p = .000). A significant decrease of BFI in patients with a BFI >28 was reported (p = .000). In patients with a BFI =28 there was a significant worsening of constipation (p = .000). In patients with a BFI >28 at T0 there was a significant increase in the use of laxatives at T7 in comparison with patients having a BFI =28 (p = .002). In patients with a BFI =28 at T0, who had a significant worsening of BFI ( > 12), the use of laxatives was significantly lower in comparison to patients who had a BFI >28 (p = .000). In the multivariate analysis, dehydration and the use of benzodiazepines were independently associated with higher BFI scores.
Conclusion: Constipation is present in approximately two-thirds of patients, and is principally associated with dehydration and the use of benzodiazepines. Patients with normal bowel function at initial assessment may see a worsening in their condition a week later due to lack of prevention or subsequent under-treatment.
Background: Delirium is often unrecognized in cancer patients. The aim of this study was to investigate the prevalence of delirium assessed by the Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale (MDAS) and possible associated factors on admission to an acute palliative/supportive care unit (APSCU). The secondary outcome was to assess changes in MDAS and symptom burden at time of discharge.
Methods: A consecutive sample of advanced cancer patients who were admitted to an APSCU was prospectively assessed for a period of 10 months. Patient demographics, including age, gender, primary diagnosis, Karnofsky status, stage of disease, and educational level were collected. The Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) and the MDAS were measured at hospital admission and discharge.
Results: A total of 314 patients were surveyed. Of 292 patients with MDAS available at T0, 74 (25.3%) and 24 (8.2%) had a MDAS of 7-12 and >=13, respectively. At discharge, there was a significant decrease in the number of patients with a MDAS >=7/30. Higher values of MDAS were associated with age (p = .028), a lower Karnofsky status (p < .0005), gender (male, p = .04), low level of education (p = .002), less awareness of disease (p < .0005), more indications for end-of-life care admission (p < .0005) or other symptoms (p = .026), hospital stay (p = .038) and death (p < .0005). Significant decreases in ESAS were observed in all patients independently of MDAS values (p < .0005).
Conclusion: Delirium is highly prevalent in patients admitted to APSCU, characterized by a low mortality due to early referral. Comprehensive assessment and treatment may allow a decrease in the level of cognitive disorders and symptom burden.
Un groupe de travail de l'EAPC (Association européenne de soins palliatifs) s'est réuni pour établir un état des lieux des connaissances sur l'accès douloureux paroxystique, selon les preuves théoriques et pratiques. Ils ont convenu que la douleur épisodique ou transitoire pourrait être un terme plus simple et plus adéquat dans la plupart des langues dont l'anglais, le français, l'italien et l'espagnol.
Cet article présente la version mise à jour des lignes directrices de l'Association Européenne de Soins Palliatifs (EAPC) sur l'utilisation d'opioïdes pour le traitement de la douleur cancéreuse. Ces lignes directrices sont présentées comme une liste de 16 recommandations fondées sur les preuves.