End of life care in Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Pediatr Neurol. May-Jun 1993;9(3):165-77. doi: 10.1016/0887-8994(93)90080-v.


End of life care for patients with Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) has become increasingly complex because of new technologies, changes in medical personnel over periods of time, emergence of home health care systems, and increasing patient and family autonomy in decision-making. In this review, we discuss the medical problems, particularly respiratory and cardiac failure, faced by DMD patients. Current concepts concerning the evaluation and options for treatment of these problems are presented as well as the ethical issues involved in the care of the DMD patient. These issues include the medical indications for treatment, patient preferences, quality-of-life issues, and contextual features related to legal, institutional, religious, geographic, cultural, social, and financial factors. We also present our experience at Loma Linda University Medical Center over the past 10 years in the development of a home mechanical ventilation program for DMD patients and an algorithm for the evaluation of these patients. Many patients with DMD do well on long-term ventilation, but some find that their quality of life is less than desirable and choose to discontinue this method of life-prolongation. Many of these new options are very expensive, making the decision to use them a difficult one. Ultimately, these are societal issues that require clear reflection on matters of resource allocation that should be performed by health care professionals, citizens, and health planners.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cause of Death
  • Child
  • Ethics, Medical
  • Female
  • Home Nursing / methods
  • Humans
  • Life Support Care / methods*
  • Male
  • Muscles / innervation
  • Muscular Dystrophies / mortality
  • Muscular Dystrophies / physiopathology
  • Muscular Dystrophies / therapy*
  • Neuromuscular Junction / physiopathology
  • Quality of Life
  • Terminal Care / methods*
  • Ventilator Weaning