Home support of patients with end-stage malignant bowel obstruction using hydration and venting gastrostomy

Am J Surg. 1986 Jul;152(1):100-4. doi: 10.1016/0002-9610(86)90155-8.


Palliative terminal care of patients with malignant bowel obstruction is a major clinical and ethical challenge. These patients are often mentally alert and ambulatory, but are kept in the hospital for hydration, nasogastric suction, and pain control. Parenteral nutrition requires frequent metabolic monitoring, is expensive, and is ethically questionable. We have used an alternative method of home management for 27 patients who met the following criteria: inoperable bowel obstruction due to untreatable cancer, an estimated life expectancy of between 2 weeks and 3 months, and understanding of the goals and limits of therapy. Hydration was provided by 10 percent dextrose and electrolyte solutions administered as overnight infusions through long-term central venous catheters. Thirteen patients with complete bowel obstruction required a venting gastrostomy which, when connected to passive drainage, relieved nausea and vomiting. The mean duration of survival was 64 days (range 9 to 223 days). Acceptance by patients and families was excellent, although most acknowledged increased costs due to limited insurance coverage for outpatient care. Seven patients returned to the hospital for terminal care (average stay 3.2 days), and 20 chose to die at home. The mean daily expense for fluids and supplies was +73.50, with an overall cost decrease of $900,000 compared with inpatient care. Home support with fluids and gastric venting is a humane, cost-effective alternative to in-hospital care for selected patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Neoplasms / complications*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Female
  • Fluid Therapy*
  • Gastrostomy*
  • Home Care Services* / economics
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction / etiology
  • Intestinal Obstruction / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged