Patterns of End-of-Life Care in Children With Advanced Solid Tumor Malignancies Enrolled on a Palliative Care Service

J Pain Symptom Manage. 2015 Sep;50(3):305-12. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2015.03.008. Epub 2015 Apr 16.


Context: Pediatric patients with solid tumors can have a significant symptom burden that impacts quality of life (QoL) and end-of-life care needs.

Objectives: We evaluated outcomes and symptoms in children with solid tumors and compared patterns of end-of-life care after implementation of a dedicated institutional pediatric palliative care (PC) service.

Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of children with solid tumors treated at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, before and after implementation of the institutional QoL/PC service in January 2007. Patients who died between July 2001 and February 2005 (historical cohort; n = 134) were compared with those who died between January 2007 and January 2012 (QoL/PC cohort; n = 57).

Results: Median time to first QoL/PC consultation was 17.2 months (range 9-33). At consultation, 60% of children were not receiving or discontinued cancer-directed therapy. Within the QoL/PC cohort, 54 patients had documented symptoms, 94% required intervention for ≥3 symptoms, and 76% received intervention for ≥5 symptoms. Eighty-three percent achieved their preferred place of death. Compared with the historical cohort, the QoL/PC cohort had more end-of-life discussions per patient (median 12 vs. 3; P < 0.001), earlier end-of-life discussions, with longer times before do-not-resuscitate orders (median 195 vs. 2 days; P < 0.001), and greater hospice enrollment (71% vs. 46%, P = 0.002).

Conclusion: Although children with solid tumor malignancies may have significant symptom burden toward the end of life, positive changes were documented in communication and in places of care and death after implementation of a pediatric PC service.

Keywords: Palliative care; end of life; pediatric; pediatric oncology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Death
  • Female
  • Hospices / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pediatrics / methods
  • Pediatrics / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality of Life
  • Resuscitation Orders
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Terminal Care / methods*
  • Terminal Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Time Factors