Aim: To evaluate use of palliative care services in patients with end-stage liver disease who do not have access to liver transplant.
Methods: Evaluated were end-stage liver disease patients who were removed from the liver transplant wait-list or died prior to transplant at a single transplant center over a 2-year period. Those who were removed due to noncompliance or ultimately transplanted elsewhere were excluded from this study. Patient characteristics associated with palliative care consultation were assessed using logistic regression analysis.
Results: Six hundred and eighty-three patients were listed for liver transplant in 2013-2014 with 107 (16%) dying (n = 62) or removed for clinical decompensation prior to liver transplant (n = 45): Median age was 58 years, and the majority were male (66%), Caucasian (53%), had Child C cirrhosis (61%) or hepatocellular carcinoma (52%). The palliative care team was consulted in only 18 of the 107 patients (17%) who died or were removed, 89% of which occurred as inpatients. Half of these consultations occurred within 72 h of death. In univariable analysis, patients of younger age, white race, and higher end-stage liver disease scores at time of listing and delisting were more likely to receive palliative care services. Only younger age [Odds ratio (OR) = 0.92; P = 0.02] and Caucasian race (OR = 4.90; P = 0.02) were still associated with integration of palliative care services through multivariable analysis.
Conclusion: Palliative care services are grossly underutilized in older, non-white patients with cirrhosis on the liver transplant wait-list. We encourage early integration of these services into clinical decision-making in the transplant population, with further studies aimed at understanding barriers to consultation.
Keywords: Cirrhosis; End of life; Hospice; Palliative care; Symptom management.