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J Pain Symptom Manage. 1998 Sep;16(3):145-52.

Sedation for uncontrolled symptoms in a South African hospice.

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  • 1Division of Palliative Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.

Abstract

The need to sedate terminally ill patients for uncontrolled symptoms has been previously documented in a few reports. A retrospective consecutive chart review was undertaken at a hospice in Cape Town, South Africa, to develop an understanding of the local experience and assess the potential for improved patient management. Twenty-three of seventy-six (30%) patients received sedating therapies: twenty patients for delirium, two patients for delirium and dyspnea, and one patient for dyspnea alone. Fourteen patients were sedated with a continuous subcutaneous infusion of midazolam, seven patients with intermittent doses of benzodiazepines, and two patients with chlorpromazine and lorazepam. The mean midazolam dose was 29 mg per day (median 30 mg; range 15-60 mg per day). Patients were sedated on average 2.5 days before death (median 1 day; range 4 hours-12 days). The mean equivalent daily dose of parenteral morphine in the last week of life showed a significantly higher mean for the sedated group, as compared to the nonsedated group. There was minimal investigation of reversible causes for delirium, none of the patients underwent an opioid rotation, and the opioid dose was seldom decreased. None of the patients received parenteral hydration. The prevalence for the use of sedating treatment is consistent with the range of other literature reports. Nevertheless, the wide disparity in the reported prevalence of these problems, and the ethical concerns raised by the relative frequency of this sedative approach, cannot be ignored.

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PMID:
9769616
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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