Background: Early and integrated specialized palliative care is often recommended but has still only been investigated in relatively few randomized clinical trials.
Objective: To investigate the effect of early specialized palliative care plus standard care versus standard care on the explorative outcomes in the Danish Palliative Care Trial (DanPaCT).
Methods: We conducted a randomized multicentre, parallel-group clinical trial. Consecutive patients with metastatic cancer were included if they had symptoms or problems that exceeded a predefined threshold according to the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30). Outcomes were estimated as the differences between the intervention and the control groups in the change from baseline to the weighted mean of the 3- and 8-week follow-ups measured as areas under the curve.
Results: In total, 145 patients were randomized to early specialized palliative care plus standard care versus 152 to standard care only. Early specialized palliative care had no significant effect on any of the symptoms or problems. Of the 21 items addressing satisfaction, specialized palliative care improved the item 'overall satisfaction with the help received from the health care system' with 9 points (95% confidence interval 3.8 to 14.2, p = 0.0006) and three other items (all p < 0.05).
Conclusion: In line with the analyses of the primary and secondary outcomes in DanPaCT, we did not find that specialized palliative care, as provided in DanPaCT, affected symptoms and problems. However, patients in the intervention group seemed more satisfied with the health care received than those in the standard care group.
Trial registration: NCT01348048.
Keywords: Depression; Neoplasms; Palliative care; Patient satisfaction; Quality of life; Randomized clinical trial.