Patients' and relatives' perceptions about intravenous and subcutaneous hydration

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2005 Oct;30(4):354-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2005.04.004.


Hydration during palliative care is a controversial topic. Most of the arguments are based on anedoctal reports that have not been substantiated with scientific data. Given that the choice is problematic from a clinical perspective, preferences of patients and family should dictate whether intravenous fluids are administered. The aim of this study was to evaluate patient and family perceptions about hydration and two modes of providing hydration. Fifty-four consecutive patients admitted to an acute pain relief and palliative care unit who required hydration completed a questionnaire regarding their perceptions on hydration and modes of hydration. Similarly, the principal family carer was chosen and similar questions were posed. For most items, patients and relatives agreed, considering hydration as a useful medical treatment that is able to provide some nutrition. The intravenous route was considered able to improve the clinical condition and to have a positive psychological meaning, representing an acceptable burden. The subcutaneous route was considered less effective, and not less bothersome than the intravenous route. Most patients and relatives agreed with continuing hydration at home, if necessary, preferring the intravenous route. Other than technical considerations, which can be variable according to the clinical setting, the perceived benefits of artificial hydration by the caregivers and patients are central to the ethical, emotional, and cultural considerations involved in their decision making. Most patients and relatives surveyed accepted and were in favor of intravenous hydration.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Family / psychology*
  • Female
  • Fluid Therapy / methods*
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Intravenous / psychology*
  • Injections, Subcutaneous / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Patients / psychology*