Palliative sedation at the end of life at a tertiary cancer center

Support Care Cancer. 2012 Jun;20(6):1299-307. doi: 10.1007/s00520-011-1217-6. Epub 2011 Jul 16.


Purpose: The aim of this study was to describe the use of palliative sedation (PS) its indications and outcomes in patients followed up till death by an inpatient palliative care consult team (PCCT) at a tertiary cancer center.

Methods: All patients referred for 5 years to the PCCT and followed up till death were eligible for the study. Both PCCT recordings and hospital charts were reviewed and a codified assessment was performed.

Results: Over a total of 2,033 consecutive consults, 129 patients died during admission and were eligible. Eighty-three had the indication to PS, 4% of all consults (95% confidence interval [95%CI], 3% to 5%) and 64% of eligible patients (95%CI, 56% to 73%). PS was more frequently indicated in males and in patients with recurrent dyspnea and recurrent agitation, while it was less frequently indicated in older people and in patients with cerebral metastases and recurrent drowsiness. The most frequent indications to PS were dyspnea (37%) and delirium (31%) alone or combined with other symptoms. PS was successfully achieved in 69 patients; the drugs most frequently used for PS were midazolam (46%), haloperidol (35%), and chlorpromazine (32%) and opioid dose escalation was higher in sedated patients (P < 0.01).

Conclusions: PS is an important intervention in the management of terminal disease by a consulting palliative care team. Improved collaboration and communication between the hospital staff and the PCCT should be offered to meet patients' needs when PS is required.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cancer Care Facilities
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / administration & dosage
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Patient Care Team
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sex Factors


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives