Palliative Care and Health Care Utilization for Patients With End-Stage Liver Disease at the End of Life

Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2017 Oct;15(10):1612-1619.e4. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2017.01.030. Epub 2017 Feb 4.


Background & aims: There has been increased attention on ways to improve the quality of end-of-life care for patients with end-stage liver disease; however, there have been few reports of care experiences for patients during terminal hospitalizations. We analyzed data from a large national database to increase our understanding of palliative care for and health care utilization by patients with end-stage liver disease.

Methods: We performed a cross-sectional, observational study to examine terminal hospitalizations of adults with decompensated cirrhosis using data from the National Inpatient Sample from 2009 through 2013. We collected data on palliative care consultation and total hospital costs, and performed multivariate regression analyses to identify factors associated with palliative care consultation. We also investigated whether consultation was associated with lower costs.

Results: Among hospitalized adults with terminal decompensated cirrhosis, 30.3% received palliative care; the mean cost per hospitalization was $48,551 ± $1142. Palliative care consultation increased annually, and was provided to 18.0% of patients in 2009 and to 36.6% of patients in 2013 (P < .05). The mean cost for the terminal hospitalization did not increase significantly ($47,969 in 2009 to $48,956 in 2013, P = .77). African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and liver transplant candidates were less likely to receive palliative care, whereas care in large urban teaching hospitals was associated with a higher odds of receiving consultation. Palliative care was associated with lower procedure burden-after adjusting for other factors, palliative care was associated with a cost reduction of $10,062.

Conclusions: Palliative care consultation for patients with end-stage liver disease increased from 2009 through 2013. Palliative care consultation during terminal hospitalizations is associated with lower costs and procedure burden. Future research should evaluate timing and effects of palliative care on quality of end-of-life care in this population.

Keywords: Death; HCC; NIS; Palliation.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • End Stage Liver Disease / therapy*
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Palliative Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Young Adult