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Cancer J. 2010 Sep-Oct;16(5):514-20. doi: 10.1097/PPO.0b013e3181f28a8d.

Emergencies in palliative care.

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  • 1Department of Hemato-Oncology, Ziekenhuisnetwerk Antwerpen-Middelheim, Antwerp, Belgium. dirk.schrijvers@zna.be


Palliative care emergencies are emergencies in patients with an incurable disease that may lead to death or decreased quality of life. During the palliative care phase of a patient's life, they differ from other medical emergencies and are mainly focusing on symptom control, whereas disease-oriented treatments are less important. Palliative care emergencies can occur on the physical, emotional, and existential field. They involve not only the patient but also the family and sometimes the health care professional. Palliative care emergencies that are addressed are pain, acute dyspnea, major bleeding, acute function loss, acute anxiety, delirium, epileptic seizures, acute decompensation with aggressive behavior of the nonprofessional caregiver, and planning for predictable emergencies.

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