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AIDS Patient Care STDS. 1996 Jun;10(3):171-3.

Symptom profile in terminally ill AIDS patients.

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  • 1Department of Infectious Diseases, Catholic University, Teaching Hospital, Agostino Gemelli, Rome, Italy.


A study protocol to record prospectively, frequency and intensity of symptoms in terminally ill AIDS patients was developed. Other information included mode of transmission, active intravenous drug use, regular visits of family/friends to the ward, the use of symptom-control drugs, and death without family or partner. The study population was selected from patients admitted to the wards or followed in the Clinic or Day Center of the Department of Infectious Diseases of the Catholic University, Rome. Inclusion criteria were diagnosis of AIDS prior to 12 months and advanced stage AIDS (defined with standardized criteria). To standardize the analysis of data, the terminal phase was considered to start 3 months before death (T1). From January 1, 1993 to December 12, 1993, 266 patients (208 males, 58 females) were enrolled. By June 30, 1995 168 patients had died and were considered for analysis. The most frequent symptoms at T1 were anorexia (63.1%), fatigue (60.1%), pain (60.1%), fever (47.6%), and cough (37.5%). At the end week (T6) the most frequent symptoms were fever (81.5%), fatigue (70.2%), dyspnea (68.1%), and pain (58.9%). In two-thirds of the patients, symptom-control drugs were used, most frequently nonopioid analgesics (39.9% at T1 and 56.5% at T6) and antipyretics (38.7% at T1 and 53.6% at T6). Opioid analgesics were used in 19% of patients at T1 and in 28.6% at T6. Almost one-third of the patients (29.2%) died alone without having family, their partner, or a friend near. Considering the high frequency of treatable symptoms in terminally ill AIDS patients, the use of palliative therapy should be emphasized. Flexibility and patient-directed care should be used in deciding care plans to avoid overhospitalization and promote alternative care.

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