Referrals to a perinatal specialist palliative care consult service in Ireland, 2012–2015

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To analyse the referral patterns of perinatal patients referred to a specialist palliative care service (SPCS), their demographics, diagnoses, duration of illness, place of death and symptom profile.


A retrospective chart review of all perinatal referrals over a 4-year period to the end of 2015.


A consultant-led paediatric SPCS at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin, and the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital, Dublin.


83 perinatal referrals were received in a 4-year period. Chromosomal abnormalities accounted for 35% of diagnoses, congenital heart disease 25%, complex neurological abnormalities 11% and renal agenesis 4%. 22 referrals (26.5%) were made antenatally, with 61 (73.5%) postnatally. Of the postnatal referrals, 27 (44%) were asymptomatic on referral. An opioid medication was recommended (regularly or as required) in 46 cases. Symptom control was achieved without dose titration in 43 of these cases (93%). Of 47 deaths in this group referred postnatally, 22 of these (47%) died at home with support from community teams. Discharge home for best supportive care required complex interagency communication and cooperation.


Perinatal palliative care requires effective multidisciplinary work, whether delivered in the inpatient setting or in the community. With appropriate support, end-of-life care can be delivered in the community.

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