Items in AFP with MESH term: Palliative Care
ABSTRACT: Cirrhosis is a diffuse process characterized by fibrosis and the conversion of normal liver architecture into structurally abnormal nodules. The modified Child-Pugh score, which ranks the severity of cirrhosis based on signs and liver function test results, has been shown to predict survival. Strategies have been established to prevent complications in patients with cirrhosis. Esophageal varices can be identified by endoscopy; if large varices are present, prophylactic nonselective beta blocker therapy should be administered. Alpha-fetoprotein testing and ultrasonography can be effective in screening for hepatocellular carcinoma. Vaccines should be administered to prevent secondary infections. The use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs should be avoided, and patients should maintain a balanced diet containing 1 to 1.5 g of protein per kg per day. An extensive assessment should be performed before patients with cirrhosis undergo elective surgery. Before advanced liver decompensation occurs, patients should be referred for liver transplantation evaluation. If advanced cirrhosis is present and transplantation is not feasible, survival is between one and two years.
ABSTRACT: In addition to pain, patients who are approaching the end of life commonly have other symptoms. Unless contraindicated, prophylaxis with a gastrointestinal motility stimulant laxative and a stool softener is appropriate in terminally ill patients who are being given opioids. Patients with low performance status are not candidates for surgical treatment of bowel obstruction. Cramping abdominal pain associated with mechanical bowel obstruction often can be managed with morphine (titrating the dosage for pain) and octreotide. Delirium is common at the end of life and is frequently caused by a combination of medications, dehydration, infections or hypoxia. Haloperidol is the pharmaceutical agent of choice for the management of delirium. Dyspnea, the subjective sensation of uncomfortable breathing, is often treated by titration of an opioid to relieve the symptom; a benzodiazepine is used when anxiety is a component of the breathlessness.
ABSTRACT: Although the overall incidence of gastric cancer has steadily declined in the United States, it is estimated that more than 12,000 persons died from gastric cancer in 2003. The incidence of distal stomach tumors has greatly declined, but reported cases of proximal gastric carcinomas, including tumors at the gastroesophageal junction, have increased. Early diagnosis of gastric cancer is difficult because most patients are asymptomatic in the early stage. Weight loss and abdominal pain often are late signs of tumor progression. Chronic atrophic gastritis, Helicobacter pylori infection, smoking, heavy alcohol use, and several dietary factors have been linked to increased risks for gastric cancer. Esophagogastroduodenoscopy is the preferred diagnostic modality for evaluation of patients in whom stomach cancer is suspected. Accurate staging of gastric wall invasion and lymph node involvement is important for determining prognosis and appropriate treatment. Endoscopic ultrasonography, in combination with computed tomographic scanning and operative lymph node dissection, may be involved in staging the tumor. Treatment with surgery alone offers a high rate of failure. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy have not improved survival rates when used as single modalities, but combined therapy has shown some promise. Primary prevention, by control of modifiable risk factors and increased surveillance of persons at increased risk, is important in decreasing morbidity and mortality.
ABSTRACT: Although only 32,000 new cases of adenocarcinoma of the pancreas occur in the United States each year, it is the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in this country. The overall five-year survival rate is 4 percent, and localized, resectable disease has only a 17 percent survival rate. Risk factors include smoking, certain familial cancer syndromes, and familial chronic pancreatitis. The link between risk of pancreatic cancer and other factors (e.g., diabetes, obesity) is less clear. Most patients present with obstructive jaundice caused by compression of the bile duct in the head of the pancreas. Epigastric or back pain, vague abdominal symptoms, and weight loss also are characteristic of pancreatic cancer. More than one half of cases have distant metastasis at diagnosis. Computed tomography is the most useful diagnostic and staging tool. Ultrasonography, magnetic resonance imaging, and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography may provide additional information. The majority of tumors are not surgically resectable because of metastasis and invasion of the major vessels posterior to the pancreas. Resectable tumors are treated with the Whipple procedure or the pylorus-preserving Whipple procedure. Adjuvant fluorouracil-based chemotherapy may prolong survival. For nonresectable tumors, chemotherapy with gemcitabine prolongs survival. Other agents are being studied. Radiation combined with chemotherapy has slowed progression in locally advanced cancers. Throughout the illness and during end-of-life care, patients need comprehensive symptom control.
ABSTRACT: When patients are diagnosed with cancer, primary care physicians often must deliver the bad news, discuss the prognosis, and make appropriate referrals. When delivering bad news, it is important to prioritize the key points that the patient should retain. Physicians should assess the patient's emotional state, readiness to engage in the discussion, and level of understanding about the condition. The discussion should be tailored according to these assessments. Often, multiple visits are needed. When discussing prognosis, physicians should be sensitive to variations in how much information patients want to know. The challenge for physicians is to communicate prognosis accurately without giving false hope. All physicians involved in the patient's care should coordinate their key prognosis points to avoid giving the patient mixed messages. As the disease progresses, physicians must reassess treatment effectiveness and discuss the values, goals, and preferences of the patient and family. It is important to initiate conversations about palliative care early in the disease course when the patient is still feeling well. There are innovative hospice programs that allow for simultaneous curative and palliative care. When physicians discuss the transition from curative to palliative care, they should avoid phrases that may convey to the patient a sense of failure or abandonment. Physicians also must be cognizant of how cultural factors may affect end-of-life discussions. Sensitivity to a patient's cultural and individual preferences will help the physician avoid stereotyping and making incorrect assumptions.
ABSTRACT: Radiation therapy can be an effective treatment modality for both malignant and benign disease. While radiation can be given as primary treatment, it may also be used pre- or postoperatively, with or without other forms of therapy. Radiation therapy is often curative but is sometimes palliative. There are many methods of delivering radiation effectively. Often, patients tolerate irradiation well without significant complications, and organ function is preserved. To ensure that all patients with cancer have the opportunity to consider all treatment options, family physicians should be aware of the usefulness of radiation therapy.
Managing Pain in the Dying Patient - Article
ABSTRACT: End-of-life care can be a challenge requiring the full range of a family physician's skills. Significant pain is common but is often undertreated despite available medications and technology. Starting with an appropriate assessment and following recommended guidelines on the use of analgesics, family physicians can achieve successful pain relief in nearly 90 percent of dying patients. Physicians must overcome their own fears about using narcotics and allay similar fears in patients, families and communities. Drugs such as corticosteroids, antidepressants and anticonvulsants can also help to alleviate pain. Anticonvulsants can be especially useful in relieving neuropathic pain. Side effects of pain medications should be anticipated and treated promptly, but good pain control should be maintained. The physical, psychologic, social and spiritual needs of dying patients are best managed with a team approach. Home visits can provide comfort and facilitate the doctor-patient relationship at the end of life.
Arthroscopic Surgery for Knee Osteoarthritis - Cochrane for Clinicians
ABSTRACT: As death approaches, a gradual shift in emphasis from curative and life prolonging therapies toward palliative therapies can relieve significant medical burdens and maintain a patient's dignity and comfort. Pain and dyspnea are treated based on severity, with stepped interventions, primarily opioids. Common adverse effects of opioids, such as constipation, must be treated proactively; other adverse effects, such as nausea and mental status changes, usually dissipate with time. Parenteral methylnaltrexone can be considered for intractable cases of opioid bowel dysfunction. Tumor-related bowel obstruction can be managed with corticosteroids and octreotide. Therapy for nausea and vomiting should be targeted to the underlying cause; low-dose haloperidol is often effective. Delirium should be prevented with normalization of environment or managed medically. Excessive respiratory secretions can be treated with reassurance and, if necessary, drying of secretions to prevent the phenomenon called the "death rattle." There is always something more that can be done for comfort, no matter how dire a situation appears to be. Good management of physical symptoms allows patients and loved ones the space to work out unfinished emotional, psychological, and spiritual issues, and, thereby, the opportunity to find affirmation at life's end.
Symptom Management at the End of Life - Editorials