Caregiver perspectives on discussions about the use of intensive treatments in cystic fibrosis

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2010 Dec;40(6):821-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2010.03.021. Epub 2010 Sep 9.


Context: Intensive treatments intended to sustain life are often used for patients with advanced cystic fibrosis (CF). There are no guidelines for selecting patients whose survival and quality of life may be enhanced by such treatments or for communication with patients and caregivers about possible treatment outcomes.

Objectives: We aimed to describe caregivers' perspectives on decision making for the use of intensive treatments for patients with advanced CF lung disease.

Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 36 caregivers of 36 patients who died of CF about treatment preference discussions and solicited recommendations for improving discussions.

Results: Twenty (56%) patients received intensive treatments during the last week of life. Twenty-two (61%) caregivers reported ever having discussed intensive treatment preferences with a physician, and 17 (77%) of these discussions were initiated during an acute illness. Only 14 (39%) of all patients participated. Caregivers expressed less certainty about consistency of treatments with patient preferences when patients did not participate. Twenty-nine (81%) caregivers endorsed first discussing treatment preferences during a period of medical stability.

Conclusions: Discussions about preferences for the use of intensive treatments for patients with CF often take place during episodes of acute illness and may be delayed until patients themselves are too ill to participate. Bereaved caregivers suggest first addressing intensive treatment preferences during a stable period so that patient preferences are understood and unwanted treatments are minimized.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Caregivers*
  • Child
  • Cystic Fibrosis / therapy*
  • Decision Making*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Quality of Life*