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Medsurg Nurs. 2009 Jan-Feb;18(1):17-21, 32; quiz 22.

Understanding and responding to the death rattle in dying patients.

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  • 1Palliative Care Services Department, Midwest Palliative and Hospice CareCenter, Glenview, IL, USA.


Medical-surgical nurses in inpatient settings may encounter dying patients who exhibit a number of symptoms during the end of life. One symptom, the death rattle, refers to the noise of excessive secretions present during the inspiratory and expiratory phases of respiration. Symptom improvement can be obtained with pharmacologic and non-pharmacological measures. Empathic communication with the patient's significant others also is an important component of care.

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