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J Pain Symptom Manage. 1999 Apr;17(4):248-55.

The symptom burden of seriously ill hospitalized patients. SUPPORT Investigators. Study to Understand Prognoses and Preferences for Outcome and Risks of Treatment.

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  • 1Marshfield Clinic, Wisconsin, USA.


We studied symptom burden and associated factors in a cohort of 1582 seriously ill patients admitted at five tertiary care academic centers in the U.S. between June 1989 and June 1991 in the SUPPORT Study. Logistic regression was used to test the independent association of symptoms with demographic, psychological, chronic, and acute illness measures. Pain, dyspnea, anxiety, and depression caused the greatest symptom burden. The following symptoms accounted for 67.3% of all symptoms that were at least moderately severe at least half of the time: dyspnea (19.2%), pain (17.6%), pain/dyspnea (7.6%), anxiety (5.9%), depression (5.0%), anxiety/depression (4.4%), anxiety/depression/pain/dyspnea (3.9%), and nausea (3.7%). Hospital, male gender, disease category, more comorbidities, more dependencies in activities of daily living prior to illness, and poorer quality of life were associated with greater symptom burden. Seriously ill patients have a high symptom burden. Better strategies will be needed to control symptoms in these patients.

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