Palliative Care in Neurology

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Abstract

Palliative medicine is a specialty that focuses on improving the quality of life for patients with serious or advanced medical conditions, and it is appropriate at any stage of disease, including at the time of diagnosis. Neurologic conditions tend to have high symptom burdens, variable disease courses, and poor prognoses that affect not only patients but also their families and caregivers. Patients with a variety of neurologic conditions such as Parkinson disease, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, brain tumors, stroke, and acute neurologic illnesses have substantial unmet needs that can be addressed through a combination of primary and specialty palliative care. The complex needs of these patients are ideally managed with a comprehensive approach to care that addresses the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual aspects of care in an effort to reduce suffering. Early discussions about prognosis, goals of care, and advance care planning are critical as they can provide guidance for treatment decisions and allow patients to retain a sense of autonomy despite progressive cognitive or functional decline. With the rapid growth in palliative care across the United States, there are opportunities to improve the palliative care knowledge of neurology trainees, the delivery of palliative care to patients with neurologic disease by both neurologists and nonneurologists, and the research agenda for neuropalliative care.

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