Background: Inpatient palliative care is important for patients with terminal pancreatic cancer. However, the differences between inpatient palliative care and acute hospital care for inpatients with pancreatic cancer have not been explored in a population-based study.
Methods: This population-based nationwide study was conducted using data from the Taiwan National Health Insurance database to analyze the differences between inpatient palliative care and acute hospital care for inpatients with pancreatic cancer. We identified 854 patients with terminal pancreatic cancer, who had received in-hospital end-of-life care between January 2003 and December 2006. These patients were then sub-divided and matched 1:1 (using propensity score matching) according to whether they received inpatient palliative care (n = 276) or acute hospital care (n = 276). These groups were subsequently compared to evaluate any differences in the use of aggressive procedures, prescribed medications, and medical costs.
Results: Inpatient palliative care was typically provided by family physicians (39%) and oncologists (25%), while acute hospital care was typically provided by oncologists (29%) and gastroenterologists (24%). The inpatient palliative care group used natural opium alkaloids significantly more frequently than the acute hospital care group (84.4% vs. 56.5%, respectively; P < 0.001). The inpatient palliative care group also had shorter hospital stays (10.6 ± 11.1 days vs. 20.6 ± 16.3 days, respectively; P < 0.001), fewer aggressive procedures, and lower medical costs (both, P < 0.005).
Conclusions: Compared to patients in acute hospital wards, patients with pancreatic cancer in inpatient palliative care units received more frequent pain control treatments, underwent fewer aggressive procedures, and incurred lower medical costs. Therefore, inpatient palliative care should be considered a viable option for patients with terminal pancreatic cancer.