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Eur Respir J. 2008 Sep;32(3):796-803. Epub 2007 Nov 7.

Palliative and end-of-life care for patients with severe COPD.

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Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington, 325 Ninth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104-2499, USA.


Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. For many patients, maximal therapy for COPD produces only modest or incomplete relief of disabling symptoms and these symptoms result in a significantly reduced quality of life. Despite the high morbidity and mortality associated with severe COPD, many patients receive inadequate palliative care. There are several reasons for this. First, patient-physician communication about palliative and end-of-life care is infrequent and often of poor quality. Secondly, the uncertainty in predicting prognosis for patients with COPD makes communication about end-of-life care more difficult. Consequently, patients and their families frequently do not understand that severe COPD is often a progressive and terminal illness. The purpose of the present review is to summarise recent research regarding palliative and end-of-life care for patients with COPD. Recent studies provide insight and guidance into ways to improve communication about end-of-life care and thereby improve the quality of palliative and end-of-life care the patients receive. Two areas that may influence the quality of care are also highlighted: 1) the role of anxiety and depression, common problems for patients with COPD; and 2) the importance of advance care planning. Improving communication represents an important opportunity for the improvement of the quality of palliative and end-of-life care received by these patients.

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