Background: Palliative care is an important component of pediatric oncology care, especially for children who will not be cured of their disease. However, barriers remain to integration of this service. One barrier is the perception that it indicates "giving up." This study examined if palliative care involvement was associated with a decreased intensity of care at the end of life for children with malignancy at a large academic center with a well-established palliative care program.
Procedure: This is a retrospective chart review that measured intensity of care as the number of emergency department visits, hospital days, and intensive care unit days in the last one and three months of life. The data were compared for patients with and without palliative care involvement and with and without hospice involvement.
Results: Palliative involvement was not associated with a decrease in the intensity of care in the last three months of life. Hospice care was associated with a decreased intensity of care. These results held true in analyses adjusted for age at death, gender, and type of malignancy.
Conclusions: These data can reassure patients, families, and providers that palliative involvement does not necessitate decreased intensity of care. Patients and families often choose hospice care to decrease the amount of time spent at the hospital and it was associated with meeting that goal.
Keywords: hospice; oncology; palliative care; treatment intensity.
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