Palliative Care Study Reveals Significant Findings | Loyola Medicine
Friday, February 23, 2018

Palliative Care Study Reveals Nine Most Significant Findings

caregiver holding patient hand
MAYWOOD, IL – Caregivers of patients surviving a prolonged critical illness experience high and persistent rates of depression.
Losing a partner can be especially stressful for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
Resident physicians experience moral distress when they administer futile treatments to patients at the end of life.
These are among nine major findings from the latest research on hospital palliative care, according to a study published in the Journal of Hospital Medicine, an official publication of the Society of Hospital Medicine. Loyola Medicine hospitalist Aziz Ansari, DO, SFHM, FACP, is corresponding author. (A hospitalist is an inpatient physician who works exclusively in the hospital.)
Dr. Ansari was part of a nationwide panel of leading palliative care experts who reviewed and ranked 55 studies about hospital palliative care published in 2016. Palliative care treats pain and other symptoms of serious illness, with the goal of improving quality of life for the patient and family.
From the list, the panel selected the nine most significant studies, based on scientific rigor, relevance to hospital medicine and impact on clinical practice. Here are the studies’ findings:
Caregiver depression: More than half of patients with prolonged critical illnesses need support from a caregiver a year after hospitalization. A study that followed 280 caregivers for a year found that many experienced high and persistent rates of depression.
“Hospitalists should be attentive to factors associated with caregiver vulnerability and offer support,” Dr. Ansari and colleagues wrote. “Improving caregivers’ sense of control and social support may be targets for intervention.”
LGBT partner loss: A study found that grieving LGBT people face additional barriers and stressors, including homophobia, failure by healthcare workers to acknowledge the relationship, additional legal and financial issues and the shadow of HIV/AIDS.
Moral distress among doctors: Moral distress occurs when a clinician feels powerless to take what he or she believes to be the ethically correct action. A study of resident physicians found they experience significant moral distress with futile treatments, such as feeding tubes for patients with advanced dementia. Many said they felt obligated to provide end-of-life care that was not in the patient's best interest and caused the patient to suffer.
Treating delirium: Antipsychotics are widely used to treat symptoms of delirium. But a study found that patients receiving the antipsychotics risperidone and haloperidol had higher delirium scores than patients who received non-drug treatments for delirium.
Treating cancer pain: One study found that low-dose morphine was superior to weak opioids such as codeine and tramadol for treating moderate cancer pain. Another study found that methadone used as an adjunct pain medication can improve moderate cancer pain.
Inappropriate use of antimicrobials: When a patient is nearing the end of life, a physician may write a comfort care order, which is meant to ensure that the final hours or days are tranquil and pain-free, without prolonging life. But a study found that among 711 patients still alive 24 hours after a comfort care order was written, 15.6 percent still were receiving antimicrobials (antibiotics or antifungals).
Educational videos effective: Advance care planning is making decisions about the care you would wish to receive if you became incapacitated. A study found that using educational videos increased the percentage of hospital patients who did advance care planning.
Palliative care consultations: A study examined the effectiveness of an intervention program for family members of patients with prolonged critical illnesses. The intervention included supportive conversations and information about the illness and prognosis. The team met with family members seven days after the patient went on a ventilator and again 10 days later. The study found that family members who received the interventions had similar rates of anxiety and depression and higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder than family members who did not receive the interventions. The study did not evaluate routine specialty palliative care consultation in the ICU. Also, the palliative intervention used in the study was more informational, rather than driven by clinical considerations as in standard consultations.
The study by Dr. Ansari and colleagues is titled “Update in Hospital Palliative Care: Symptom Management, Communication, Caregiver Outcomes and Moral Distress.”
In addition to Dr. Ansari, other co-authors are Rachel Havyer, MD, (first author) of the Mayo Clinic, Daniel Pomerantz, MD, of Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Robert Jayes, MD, of George Washington University, Patricia Harris, MD, of the University of California, Los Angeles and Stephanie Harman, MD, of Stanford University.

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 92 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 129,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.