Background: Given a slow course of disease, end-of-life issues are understudied in neuroendocrine tumors (NETs). To date, there are no data regarding symptoms at the end of life. This study examined symptom trajectories and factors associated with high symptom burden in NETs at the end of life.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study of NET patients diagnosed from 2004 to 2015 and who died between 2007 and 2016, in Ontario, Canada. Prospectively collected patient-reported Edmonton Symptom Assessment System scores were linked to administrative healthcare datasets. Moderate-to-severe symptom scores (= 4 out of 10) in the 6 months before death were analyzed, with multivariable modified Poisson regression identifying factors associated with moderate-to-severe symptoms scores.
Results: Among 677 NET decedents, 2579 symptom assessments were recorded. Overall, moderate-to-severe scores were most common for tiredness (86%), wellbeing (81%), lack of appetite (75%), and drowsiness (68%), with these proportions increasing as death approached. For symptoms of lack of appetite, drowsiness, and shortness of breath, the increase was steepest in the 8 weeks before death. On multivariable analyses, the risk of moderate-to-severe symptoms was significantly higher in the last 2 months before death and for patients with shorter survival (< 6 months). Women had higher risks of anxiety, nausea, and pain.
Conclusion: A high prevalence of moderate-to-severe symptoms was observed for NETs at the end of life, not previously described. The proportion of moderate-to-severe symptoms increases steeply as death nears, highlighting an opportunity for improved management. Combined with identified factors associated with moderate-to-severe symptoms, this information is important to improve patient-centred and personalized supportive care for NETs at the end of life.
In 2010, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) published updated official guidelines for specific practices involved in the determination of death by neurologic criteria for adult patients, otherwise known as brain death. Most states, however, do not have laws mandating the standard adoption of the AAN guidelines. The responsibilities for creating and implementing brain death determination policies thus falls on individual hospitals. As a result, significant variability in practice exists between hospitals and even between providers. This review highlights the ways in which and the extent to which adult brain death determination varies across the US, while also making the case that such persistent levels of heterogeneity call for improvements in standardizing training in brain death determination.
This special issue contents : a report of physicians’ beliefs about physician-assisted suicide: a national study ; respecting autonomy and promoting the patient’s good in the setting of serious terminal and concurrent mental illness ; after-death functions of cell death; selective neuronal death in neurodegenerative diseases: the ongoing mystery ; practice variability in determination of death by neurologic criteria for adult patients ; mortal responsibilities: bioethics and medical-assisted dying ; anticipation, accompaniment, and a good death in perinatal care ; pros and cons of physician aid in dying ; brain death criteria: medical dogma and outliers ; dying well-informed: the need for better clinical education surrounding facilitating end-of-life conversations ; looking back at withdrawal of life-support law and policy to see what lies ahead for medical aid-in-dying.
BACKGROUND: Futile care in the neuroscience intensive care unit (NSICU) can create moral distress for clinicians who may differ in their interpretation of the value of such care. We sought to compare the perception of provision of futile care in the NSICU among physicians, advanced practice providers, and intensive care unit registered nurses (ICURNs).
METHODS: This is a cross-sectional study of 77 patients. A standardized questionnaire was used to ask clinicians whether care being provided to NSICU patients admitted for more than 48 hours was futile and whether they would want that treatment for their loved one. Demographics, diagnosis, and reason for treatment futility were collected. Futility was analyzed independently and in an aggregate manner (yes/probable combined and no/probable combined).
RESULTS: The sample median age was 61 (SD, 17.179) years, men comprised 53% of the sample, and 68% were white. Collectively, there were 77 futile responses (33%), 136 nonfutile (59%), and 18 probable futile (8%). Physicians and nurse practitioners deemed futility in 36% of patients; ICURNs, in 27% (P < .05). Age, race, or diagnosis did not impact futility perception. The treatment was acceptable for a loved one in 53% of cases for physicians, 43% for advanced practice providers, and 48% for ICURNs (P < .05). Interobserver agreement for futility was 0.469 (CK), and pairwise agreement was 71%. Interobserver agreement for treatment acceptable for a loved one was 0.568 (CK), and pairwise agreement was 78%.
CONCLUSIONS: Clinicians consider NSICU care futile in one-third of patients, but correlation among them is moderate; no specific variable is associated with such perception.
From the start, I followed the case of Jahi McMath with great interest. In December 2013, she clearly fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for brain death. As a neurologist with a special interest in chronic brain death, I was not surprised that, after she was flown to New Jersey, where she became statutorily resurrected and was treated as a comatose patient, Jahi's condition quickly improved. In 2014, her family reported that she sometimes responded to simple motor commands. I shared the general skepticism regarding these reports, assuming that the family was in denial and was misinterpreting spinal myoclonus (a rapid, involuntary twitch generated by the spinal cord) as volitional. The family had noticed that when Jahi's heart rate was above eighty beats per minute, she was more likely to respond, as though the heart rate reflected some sort of inner level of arousal. So they began to make video recordings. I have been privileged to be entrusted with copies of these recordings, forty-eight of which proved suitable for assessing alleged responsiveness. All have been certified by a forensic video expert as unaltered. The first thing that struck me was that the great majority of the alleged responses were not spinal myoclonus. In fact, they did not resemble any type of spontaneous, involuntary movement described in patients paralyzed from high spinal cord lesions.
Background: Older patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) have higher mortality and morbidity than their younger counterparts. Palliative care (PC) is recommended for all patients with a serious or life-limiting illness. However, its adoption for trauma patients has been variable across the nation. The goal of this study was to assess PC utilization and intensity of care in older patients with severe TBI. We hypothesized that PC is underutilized despite its positive effects.
Materials and methods: The National Inpatient Sample database (2009-2013) was queried for patients aged =55 y with International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision codes for TBI with loss of consciousness =24 h. Outcome measures included PC rate, in-hospital mortality, discharge disposition, length of stay (LOS), and intensity of care represented by craniotomy and or craniectomy, ventilator use, tracheostomy, and percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy.
Results: Of 5733 patients, 78% died in hospital with a median LOS of 1 d, and 85% of the survivors were discharged to facilities. The overall PC rate was 35%. Almost 40% of deaths received PC, with nearly half within 48 h of admission. PC was used in 26% who had neurosurgical procedures, compared with 35% who were nonoperatively managed (P = 0.003). PC was associated with less intensity of care in the entire population. For survivors, those with PC had significantly shorter LOS, compared with those without PC.
Conclusions: Despite high mortality, only one-third of older patients with severe TBI received PC. PC was associated with decreased use of life support and lower intensity of care. Significant efforts need to be made to bridge this quality gap and improve PC in this high-risk population.
Patients with primary brain tumors may present with neuropsychiatric symptoms such as behavioral and personality changes at any point during the disease course. Symptoms may be due to tumor treatment, the disease itself, or due to therapy for symptoms such as seizures. Levetiracetam is an attractive choice of antiepileptic medication because of relatively fewer drug interactions and may be administered through the subcutaneous route. Aggressive behavior in advanced brain tumors can have a profound negative impact on patients and their families and carers, particularly when deteriorating toward death. We report a case of neuropsychiatric symptoms in progressive glioblastoma multiforme while on stable levetiracetam doses, which improved with reduction and cessation of the drug. We review the existing literature on seizures in primary brain tumors, their antiepileptic drug management, and the risk of consequent neuropsychiatric adverse events.
BACKGROUND: Multilevel uncertainty exists in the treatment of devastating brain injury and variation in end-of-life decision-making is a concern. Cognitive and emotional doubt linked to making challenging decisions have not received much attention. The aim of this study was to explore physicians´ doubt related to decisions to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment within the first 72h after devastating brain injury and to identify the strategies used to address doubt.
METHOD: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 neurocritical care physicians in a Norwegian trauma centre (neurosurgeons, intensivists and rehabilitation specialists) followed by a qualitative thematic analysis.
RESULT: All physicians described feelings of doubt. The degree of doubt and how they dealt with it varied. Institutional culture, ethics climate and individual physicians´ values, experiences and emotions seemed to impact judgements and decisions. Common strategies applied by physicians across specialities when dealing with uncertainty and doubt were: 1. Provision of treatment trials 2. Using time as a coping strategy 3. Collegial counselling and interdisciplinary consensus seeking 4. Framing decisions as purely medical.
CONCLUSION: Decisions regarding life-sustaining treatment after devastating brain injury are crafted in a stepwise manner. Feelings of doubt are frequent and seem to be linked to the recognition of fallibility. Doubt can be seen as positive and can foster open-mindedness towards the view of others, which is one of the prerequisites for a good ethical climate. Doubt in this context tends to be mitigated by open interdisciplinary discussions acknowledging doubt as rational and a normal feature of complex decision-making.
INTRODUCTION: The proportion of hospitals with specialist palliative care services in the USA has increased substantially over the past decade. Severe acute brain injury presents with unique challenges, especially regarding quality of life. The growth and increased recognition of neurocritical care as a subspecialty has not been paralleled by studies regarding how best to integrate palliative care for this unique patient population. Thus, we surveyed members of the Neurocritical Care Society (NCS) to explore current practice patterns, perceptions, and preferences regarding integration of palliative care in the neurological intensive care unit (Neuro-ICU).
METHODS: We created a 19-item survey using SurveyMonkey to assess practice patterns, perceptions, and preferences of neurointensivists regarding integration of palliative care in the Neuro-ICU. The survey, approved by the NCS research committee, was distributed to all active members of the NCS.
RESULTS: A total of 424 NCS members representing 19% of the 2200 list serve members completed the survey. The majority (58%) of respondents were attending physicians, who worked primarily in a dedicated Neuro-ICU (67%), at university affiliated academic medical centers (65%). Palliative care consultations are utilized infrequently (< 11%) by the majority of the respondents (59%). The most common indication for a palliative consultation was to discuss goals of care and make treatment decisions (73%). A large majority (77%) either agreed or strongly agreed that palliative care services were utilized in the management of difficult cases apart from discussions regarding withdrawal of life sustaining therapy. Palliative care needs of Neuro-ICU patients were considered different from patients in other ICUs by the majority of respondents (66%).
CONCLUSION: Our study provides insights into the current perceptions, practice patterns, and preferences of neurointensivists as it relates to palliative care consultation in the Neuro-ICU.
Aim: The aim of our research was to explore the unfulfilled needs of patients with a progressive neurological disease in advanced stage of the illness within the current system of health and social care in the Czech Republic.
Design and Setting: Qualitative research (grounded theory) was used to conceptualize the patterns of unmet palliative care needs in Czech Republic.
Methods: The data collection method comprised individual, in-depth interviews (n = 19) and focus groups (n = 4) where a total of 52 respondents participated (patients with progressive neurological diseases [PNDs], family members, and professionals).
Results: Two main categories of unfulfilled needs were determined (life with the disease, professional help), and they were described in the context of the 3 crucial themes identified in the study—the symptoms of the advanced stage of the disease resulted in substantial reduction of physical self-sufficiency, loss of autonomy, and social isolation; the level of dependence on the support and help of others increased; the patients also highlighted several problems related to health-care services.
Conclusion: The unmet needs should be taken into consideration when creating the concept of the neuropalliative and rehabilitation care, including the mental health support plan, because of the emotional, behavioral, and cognitive disorders that frequently occur in the lives of a substantial amount of patients with PND.
Comment associer ces entités, maladie neurologique, polyhandicap et soins palliatifs pédiatriques, faire coexister ces réalités marquées par l’hypothétique, la rupture ? Comment faire lorsque c’est un réel écrasant qui vient faire irruption ? Lorsque la temporalité se fige, lorsqu’un décalage s’opère entre désirs et potentialités, lorsque la symbolisation fait défaut ? Ces questions et leurs soubassements n’appellent évidemment pas de réponse univoque ; de multiples champs de réflexion et de pensée – philosophique, éthique, social, etc. – leur sont rattachés qui ne pourront malheureusement pas être déployés ici. Dans cet article, l’auteur prend plutôt le chemin de traverse de sa pratique clinique pour tenter d’illustrer comment, au-delà des soins palliatifs, ce dont il est question, ce qui est sur le devant de la scène, c’est la maladie et ses effets dévastateurs potentiels sur le lien et la rencontre avec l’enfant.
L'ouvrage évoque l'accompagnement des personnes atteintes de la maladie d'Alzheimer. A partir de son expérience d'infirmière, l'auteure partage les témoignages des familles venues dans le centre d'accueil de jour qu'elle a ouvert. Des points de vue de neurologues et de neuropsychologues sont également présentés.
Whole brain failure constitutes the diagnostic criterion for death determination in most clinical settings across the globe. Yet the conceptual foundation for its adoption was slow to emerge, has evoked extensive scientific debate since inception, underwent policy revision, and remains contentious in praxis even today. Complications result from the need to relate a unitary construal of the death event with an adequate account of organismal integration and that of the human organism in particular. Advances in the neuroscience of higher human faculties, such as the self, personal identity, and consciousness, and dynamical philosophy of science accounts, however, are yielding a portrait of higher order global integration shared between body and brain. Such conceptual models of integration challenge a praxis relying exclusively on a neurological criterion for death.
Palliative care services are beneficial for pediatric neurology patients with chronic, life-limiting illnesses. However, timely referral to palliative care may be impeded due to an inability to identify appropriate patients. The aim of this pilot case-control study was to test a quantitative measure for identifying patients with unmet palliative care needs to facilitate appropriate referrals. First, a random subset of pediatric neurology patients were screened for number of hospital admissions, emergency center visits, and problems on the problem list. Screening results led to the hypothesis that having six or more hospital admissions in one year indicated unmet palliative care needs. Next, hospital admissions in the past year were counted for all patients admitted to the neurology service during a six-month period. Patients with six or more admissions as well as age- and gender-matched controls were assessed for unmet palliative care needs. In hospitalized pediatric neurology patients, having six or more admissions in the preceding year did not predict unmet palliative care needs. While this pilot study did not find a quantitative measure that identifies patients needing a palliative care consultation, the negative finding highlights an important distinction between unmet social needs that interfere with care and unmet palliative care needs. Further, the method of screening patients used in this study was simple to implement and provides a framework for future studies.
Long-term neurological conditions (LTNCs) often cause debilitating symptoms. Better understanding of symptom dimensions in LTNCs is needed to support health professionals and improve care. This can be achieved by exploring the factor structure of a standardised measure of symptoms in LTNC patients. The symptom subscale of the Integrated Palliative Outcome Scale for LTNCs (IPOS Neuro-S24) comprises 24 items measuring symptom severity. Descriptive statistics and psychometric properties of the scale were assessed, followed by differential item functioning (DIF), exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and confirmatory factor analysis (CFA). Data from N = 238 patients were analysed. The mean IPOS Neuro S-24 score was 27.0 (possible range 0–96) and floor effects were found for 21 items. The scale had good internal consistency (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.77). Weak evidence of DIF was found for nine items. All but one item (falls) loaded onto four factors with loadings > 0.3. The factors represented four clinically meaningful symptom dimensions: fatigue, motor symptoms, oral problems and non-motor symptoms. We identified a reliable four-factor structure of symptom experience in LTNC patients. The results suggest that symptom dimensions are common across LTNCs. The IPOS Neuro S-24 is an appropriate tool to measure symptoms in LTNC patients, which may improve care.
Background: Chronic progressive neurological diseases like high grade glioma (HGG), Parkinson's disease (PD), and multiple sclerosis (MS) are incurable, and associated with increasing disability including cognitive impairment, and reduced life expectancy. Patients with these diseases have complex care needs. Therefore, timely advance care planning (ACP) is required. Our aim was to investigate timing and content of discussions on treatment restrictions, i.e., to initiate, withhold, or withdraw treatment in patients with HGG, PD, and MS, from the neurologists' perspective. Methods: We performed a national online survey amongst consultants in neurology and residents in The Netherlands. The questionnaire focused on their daily practice concerning timing and content of discussions on treatment restrictions with patients suffering from HGG, PD or MS. We also inquired about education and training in discussing these issues. Results: A total of 125 respondents [89 neurologists (71%), 62% male, with a median age of 44 years, and 36 residents (29%), 31% male with a median age of 29 years] responded. Initial discussions on treatment restrictions were said to take place during the first year after diagnosis in 28% of patients with HGG, and commonly no earlier than in the terminal phase in patients with PD and MS. In all conditions, significant cognitive decline was the most important trigger to advance discussions, followed by physical decline, and initiation of the terminal phase. Most discussed issues included ventilation, resuscitation, and admission to the intensive care unit. More than half of the consultants in neurology and residents felt that they needed (more) education and training in having discussions on treatment restrictions.
Conclusion: In patients with HGG discussions on treatment restrictions are initiated earlier than in patients with PD or MS. However, in all three diseases these discussions usually take place when significant physical and cognitive decline has become apparent and commonly mark the initiation of end-of-life care. More than half of the responding consultants in neurology and residents feel the need for improvement of their skills in performing these discussions.
Neurosurgical interventions frequently occur in an emergency setting. In this setting, patients often have impaired consciousness and are unable to directly express their values and wishes regarding their treatment. The limited time available for clinical decision making has great ethical implications, as the informed consent procedure may become compromised. The ethical situation may be further challenged by different views between the patient, family members, and the neurosurgeon; the presence of advance directives; the use of an innovative procedure; or if the procedure is part of a research project. This moral opinion piece presents the implications of time constraints and a lack of patient capacity for autonomous decision making in emergency neurosurgical situations. Potential solutions to these challenges are presented that may help to improve ethical patient management in emergency settings. Emergency neurosurgery challenges the respect of autonomy of the patient. The outcome in most scenarios will rely on the neurosurgeon acting in a professional way to manage each unique situation in an ethically sound manner.
INTRODUCTION: Acute neurological illness often results in severe disability. Five-year life expectancy is around 40%; half the survivors become completely dependent on outside help.
OBJECTIVE: Evaluate the symptoms of patients admitted to a Hospital ward with a diagnosis of stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage or subdural hematoma, and analyze the role of an In-Hospital Palliative Care Support Team.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Retrospective, observational study with a sample consisting of all patients admitted with acute neurological illness and with a guidance request made to the In-Hospital Palliative Care Support Team of a tertiary Hospital, over 5 years (2012-2016).
RESULTS: A total of 66 patients were evaluated, with an age median of 83 years old. Amongst them, there were 41 ischaemic strokes, 12 intracranial bleedings, 12 subdural hematomas, and 5 subarachnoid hemorrhages. The median of delay between admission and guidance request was 14 days. On the first evaluation by the team, the GCS score median was 6/15 and the Palliative Performance Scale (PPS) median 10%. Dysphagia (96.8%) and bronchorrhea (48.4%) were the most prevalent symptoms. A total of 56 patients had a feeding tube (84.8%), 33 had vital sign monitoring (50.0%), 24 were hypocoagulated (36.3%), 25 lacked opioid or anti-muscarinic therapy for symptom control (37,9%); 6 patients retained orotracheal intubation, which was removed. In-hospital mortality was 72.7% (n=48).
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: Patients were severely debilitated, in many cases futile interventions persisted, yet several were under-medicated for symptom control. The delay between admission and collaboration request was high. Due to the high morbidity associated with acute neurological illness, palliative care should always be timely provided.