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Medline ® Abstract for Reference 45

of 'Pediatric palliative care'

The symptoms of dying children.
Drake R, Frost J, Collins JJ
J Pain Symptom Manage. 2003;26(1):594.
The purpose of this study was to examine the symptom prevalence, characteristics, and distress of children dying in hospital. Symptoms during the last week of life were obtained from the medical records. Symptoms and their characteristics during the last day of life were determined by nurse interview. Thirty children with an average age of 8.9 years were evaluated. The dominant disease process was cancer (n=18), most likely location of death intensive care (n=20), and major physiological disturbances at the time of death respiratory failure (n=9) and encephalopathy (n=9). The majority of children (90%) did not have a pre-existing Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order and 58% of these children had this addressed for the first time in the last day of life. The mean (+/-SD) number of symptoms per patient in the last week of life was 11.1+/-5.6 and six symptoms occurred with a prevalence of 50% or more. The location of death had a significant (P<0.02) impact on the mean number of symptoms: ward (14.3+/-6.1) vs. intensive care (9.5+/-4.7). In general, symptoms in the last day of life were not associated with a high level of distress. In summary, the symptom burden of dying children is high. Symptoms were, at times, distressing but children were generally comfortable. The findings suggest the application of the palliative care paradigm and a more aggressive approach to symptom control to all areas of the hospital may prove beneficial to dying children.
Pediatric Palliative Care Service, Starship Children's Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand.