End-of-Life Care of Patients With Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Other Nonmalignant Diseases

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Abstract

Background:

Palliative care services extend to meet the needs of patients with nonmalignant diseases.

Aim:

To explore the diagnoses, symptoms, and treatment of patients dying in hospice due to nonmalignant diseases, with special emphasis on amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Design:

A retrospective study based on a detailed analysis of patient records.

Setting/Participants:

All patients with nonmalignant diseases who died in Pirkanmaa Hospice during the period 2004 to 2013 were included.

Results:

Of the 67 patients studied, 48% had ALS, and the remaining had pulmonary (18%), cardiovascular (13%), neurologic (10%), and other (10%) diseases. Dyspnea, followed by pain and fatigue, was the most common symptom reported, increasing in frequency from admission to the last day of life (31% vs 48%; P < .05). Compared with ALS, patients with other diseases had more comorbidities (3.8% vs 1.4%, P < .001) and were more likely to have very short (≤3 days) final care periods (31% vs 9%; P < .05). During the last day of life, patients with ALS were more frequently unable to swallow (87% vs 31%, P < .001) and received significantly more antidepressants, antibiotics, and laxatives but less corticosteroids and oxygen compared to other patients. Noninvasive ventilation was used in 31% of all patients.

Conclusion:

Respiratory symptoms are important in the management of nonmalignant diseases in hospice. Especially, units taking care of ALS should be prepared to meet the special needs involved in ventilation support. In contrast to ALS, late referrals to hospice are common in patients with other nonmalignant diseases.

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