Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a chronic, symptomatic, life-threatening illness; however, it is complex, with variable expression regarding impact on quality of life (QOL). This study investigated attitudes and comfort of physicians regarding palliative care (PC) for patients with PAH and explored potential barriers to PC in PAH. An internet-based, mixed-methods survey was distributed to Pulmonary Hypertension Clinicians and Researchers, a professional organization within the Pulmonary Hypertension Association. Only responses from physicians involved in clinical care of patients with PAH were analyzed. Of 355 clinicians/researchers, 79 (22%) returned surveys, including 76 (21%) providers involved in clinical care. Responding physicians were mainly pulmonologists (67%), practiced in university/academic medical centers (89%), had been in practice a mean of 12 ± 7 years, cared for a median of 100 PAH patients per year, and reported a high level of confidence in managing PAH (87%), advanced PAH-specific pharmacologic interventions (95%), and end-of-life care (88%). Smaller proportions were comfortable managing pain (62%) and QOL issues (78%). Most physicians (91%) reported utilizing PC consultation at least once in the prior year, primarily in the setting of end-of-life/active dying (59%), hospice referral (46%), or symptomatic dyspnea/impaired QOL (40%). The most frequent reasons for not referring patients to PC included nonapproval by the patient/family (51%) and concern that PC is "giving up hope" (43%). PAH may result in symptoms that impair QOL despite optimal PAH therapy; however, PC awareness and utilization for PAH providers is low. Opportunities may exist to integrate PC into care for PAH patients.
Keywords: palliative care; pulmonary arterial hypertension; quality of life; symptom control.