Survival after enrollment in an Australian palliative care program

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2004 Apr;27(4):310-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2003.12.011.


Palliative care services aim to achieve the best quality of life for patients by controlling pain and other physical symptoms and attending to their psychospiritual needs. There have been many studies across different countries looking at timing of referral to palliative care services. Almost universally, timing of referral to palliative care is 'late' in the course of the patients' illness. This study looked at survival of patients after enrollment in an Australian integrated palliative care service that consists of inpatient beds (hospice), community care and consultation services. We analyzed the survival of 1138 patients enrolled over a 30-month period. The mean age was 70.1 years and 55% of the patients were male. The most common cancers were lung (19.1%), colorectal (13.4%) and prostate (5.8%), with nonmalignant disease accounting for 5.6% of all patients. The median length of survival was 54 days, with 9.3% of the patients dying within 7 days and 16.96% of patients living longer than six months. Perhaps more importantly than median survival is the time spent on a palliative care program in the overall context of diagnosis till death. The median percentage of time since diagnosis spent on the program was 17%. Timing of referral should be dependent on the need for intervention for physical or psychological symptoms. This can be meaningful whether the number of days till death is small or large.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Australia
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Community Networks
  • Female
  • Hospice Care
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care*
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Survival Analysis