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J Palliat Med. 2019 Jan 7. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2018.0400. [Epub ahead of print]

Assessing Patterns of Palliative Care Referral and Location of Death in Patients with Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis: A Sixteen-Year Single-Center Retrospective Cohort Study.

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1 Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
2 Dorothy P. and Richard P. Simmons Center for Interstitial Lung Disease at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
3 Division of Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
4 Section of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut.



Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive and fatal lung disease with an unpredictable course and a median survival of three to four years. This timeline challenges providers to approach diagnosis, oxygen therapy, rehabilitation, transplantation, and end-of-life discussions in limited encounters. There is currently no widely accepted guideline for determining when IPF patients should be referred to palliative care (PC).


We sought to describe the patient and clinical factors associated with PC referral, as well as its impact on mortality and location of death. We also aimed to examine temporal trends in PC referral in this population.


Patient data were retrospectively extracted from the health system repository of our specialty referral center for all new IPF patients evaluated between 2000 and 2016 (n = 828). Exclusion criteria included transplant recipients and patients who did not have IPF.


One hundred twelve (13.5%) IPF patients received formal PC referral. Recipients were older at diagnosis (72 years vs. 69 years, p < 0.001), had higher frequency of Charlson Comorbidity Index ≥1 (55% vs. 42%, p = 0.011), resided closer to our institution (16 miles vs. 54 miles, p < 0.001), and had a higher number of total outpatient visits (7 vs. 4, p < 0.001). PC was associated with less in-hospital death (44% vs. 60%, p = 0.006) and more in-home and hospice death (56% vs. 40%, p = 0.006).


IPF patients referred to PC were older with more severe comorbidities, resided closer to our specialty referral center, and had more outpatient follow-up. This was associated with more in-home and hospice deaths. The patient-provider relationship and frequency of follow-up visits likely play important roles in the introduction of end-of-life discussions.


idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis; location of death; palliative care


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