The prevalence of constipation among patients in palliative care has varied in prior research, from 18% to 90%, depending on study factors.
The aim of this study was to describe and explore the prevalence and symptom distress of constipation, using different definitions of constipation, in patients admitted to specialized palliative care settings.
Data was collected in a cross-sectional survey from 485 patients in 38 palliative care units in Sweden. Variables were analyzed using logistic regression and summarized as odds ratio (OR).
The prevalence of constipation varied between 7% and 43%, depending on the definition used. Two constipation groups were found: (1) medical constipation group (MCG): =3 defecations/week, n=114 (23%) and (2) perceived constipation group (PCG): patients with a perception of being constipated in the last two weeks, n=171 (35%). Three subgroups emerged: patients with (1) only medical constipation (7%), (2) only perceived constipation (19%), and (3) both medical and perceived constipation (16%). There were no differences in symptom severity between groups; 71% of all constipated patients had severe constipation.
The prevalence of constipation may differ, depending on the definition used and how constipation is assessed. In this study we found two main groups and three subgroups, analyzed from the definitions of frequency of bowel movements and experience of being constipated. To be able to identify constipation, the patients' definition has to be further explored and assessed.
In Sweden, individuals affected by severe stroke are treated in specialized stroke units. In these units, patients are attended by a multiprofessional team with a focus on care in the acute phase of stroke, rehabilitation phase, and palliative phase. Caring for patients with such a large variety in condition and symptoms might be an extra challenge for the team. Today, there is a lack of knowledge in team experiences of the dilemmas that appear and the consequences that emerge. Therefore, the purpose of this article was to study ethical dilemmas, different approaches, and what consequences they had among healthcare professionals working with the dying patients with stroke in acute stroke units. Forty-one healthcare professionals working in a stroke team were interviewed either in focus groups or individually. The data were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using content analysis. The ethical dilemmas that appeared were depending on "nondecisions" about palliative care or discontinuation of treatments. The lack of decision made the team members act based on their own individual skills, because of the absence of common communication tools. When a decision was made, the healthcare professionals had "problems holding to the decision." The devised and applied plans could be revalued, which was described as a setback to nondecisions again. The underlying problem and theme was "communication barriers," a consequence related to the absence of common skills and consensus among the value system. This study highlights the importance of palliative care knowledge and skills, even for patients experiencing severe stroke. To make a decision and to hold on to that is a presupposition in creating a credible care plan. However, implementing a common set of values based on palliative care with symptom control and quality of life might minimize the risk of the communication barrier that may arise and increases the ability to create a healthcare that is meaningful and dignified.
To date there has been a paucity of research examining whether a course in palliative care influences the clinical work. Therefore a half-day course was started for different professionals.
The aims of this study were to quantitatively and qualitatively explore professionals' experience of the usefulness and importance of such a course.
An evaluation study was used with two measurement points in the quantitative part; qualitative focus group interviews were conducted three times.
Data was collected in Sweden through structured and open-ended questions (n=355) and in focus group discussions (n=40).
The majority of participants were allied professionals (86%). Course evaluation immediately after the intervention showed high scores. At three months, 78% of the 86 participants who had cared for a dying patient since the course claimed that the course had been useful in their work. In addition, there were improvements regarding symptom management (37%), support to family members (36%), more frequent break point conversations (31%), and improved cooperation in the teams (26%). The qualitative analysis showed that the course made participants start to compare their own working experiences with the new knowledge. When returning to work, the participants feel strengthened by the the newly acquired knowledge, but the will to improve the care also led to frustration, as some of the participants described that they wanted to change routines in the care of the dying, but felt hindered.
The course was appreciated and useful in the professionals' work, but it also created problems.
Rapid Response Radiotherapy Program, Department of Radiation Oncology, Toronto-Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre, University of Toronto, 2075 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M4 N 3M5, Canada. firstname.lastname@example.org
The rapid response radiotherapy program (RRRP) at Toronto-Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Center (TSRCC) provides quick access to palliative radiotherapy for patients with a life expectancy of less than 12 months. Patients then return to their referring physician for continued oncologic management. After the initial RRRP consultation, we fax an interim consultation report to the referring physician. The purpose of this study was to assess how useful referring physicians perceive this interim report and whether this report needs to be modified to meet their information needs.
Physicians who referred patients to the RRRP and who were faxed an interim consultation report were identified over a 4-month period. These physicians were then faxed a questionnaire that asked how useful the interim report was in patient management, about their satisfaction with the information provided, to critique the report format, and whether the RRRP physician and nurse were easily accessible by telephone.
Forty physicians referred patients to the RRRP clinic over the 4-month study period. The response rate to our survey was 58% (23/40). The vast majority of physicians (95%) stated that the interim consultation report was useful in patient management. They felt that treatment details were adequately discussed in the report. The report format was perceived to be clear and concise. Referring physicians wished to be informed about any medication changes. RRRP physicians and nurse were perceived to be easily accessible by telephone if needed.
Results showed that referring physicians found the faxed interim consultation report useful in patient management. Suggestions were made on how to improve the report, and they will be used to further enhance physician communication and ultimately patient care.
Deliberations on euthanasia are mostly theoretical, and often lack first-hand perspectives of the affected persons.
Sixty-six patients suffering from cancer in a palliative phase were interviewed about their perspectives of euthanasia in relation to autonomy. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using qualitative content analysis with no predetermined categories.
The informants expressed different positions on euthanasia, ranging from support to opposition, but the majority were undecided due to the complexity of the problem. The informants' perspectives on euthanasia in relation to autonomy focused on decision making, being affected by (1) power and (2) trust. Legalization of euthanasia was perceived as either (a) increasing patient autonomy by patient empowerment, or (b) decreasing patient autonomy by increasing the medical power of the health care staff, which could be frightening. The informants experienced dependence on others, and expressed various levels of trust in others' intentions, ranging from full trust to complete mistrust.
Dying cancer patients perceive that they cannot feel completely independent, which affects true autonomous decision making. Further, when considering legalization of euthanasia, the perspectives of patients fearing the effects of legalization should also be taken into account, not only those of patients opting for it.
This paper describes the development of the Rapid Response Radiotherapy Program and evaluates the continuing medical education (CME) series, in the form of multidisciplinary monthly Radiation Oncology Palliative Care Rounds at the Toronto Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre.
Palliative care rounds were initiated by the multidisciplinary committee in September, 1998. From January, 2000, to June, 2002, attendees used a standard 5- point Likert rating scale to conduct formal evaluations.
A total of 203 evaluation forms examining 20 rounds have been collected. Findings indicated that 86.8, 96.0, 87.1, and 90.8% of participants thought the material of the presentation was relevant to their practice, interesting, and instructional. Overall 90.1% of the respondents highly rated the grand rounds (rating of 4 or 5).
The grand rounds are an effective CME activity at our hospital.
To examine whether treatment workload and complexity associated with palliative radiation therapy contribute to medical errors.
In the setting of a large academic health sciences center, patient scheduling and record and verification systems were used to identify patients starting radiation therapy. All records of radiation treatment courses delivered during a 3-month period were retrieved and divided into radical and palliative intent. "Same day consultation, planning and treatment" was used as a proxy for workload and "previous treatment" and "multiple sites" as surrogates for complexity. In addition, all planning and treatment discrepancies (errors and "near-misses") recorded during the same time frame were reviewed and analyzed.
There were 365 new patients treated with 485 courses of palliative radiation therapy. Of those patients, 128 (35%) were same-day consultation, simulation, and treatment patients; 166 (45%) patients had previous treatment; and 94 (26%) patients had treatment to multiple sites. Four near-misses and 4 errors occurred during the audit period, giving an error per course rate of 0.82%. In comparison, there were 10 near-misses and 5 errors associated with 1100 courses of radical treatment during the audit period. This translated into an error rate of 0.45% per course. An association was found between workload and complexity and increased palliative therapy error rates.
Increased complexity and workload may have an impact on palliative radiation treatment discrepancies. This information may help guide the necessary recommendations for process improvement for patients who require palliative radiation therapy.
The Palliative Performance Scale (PPS) was developed by the Victoria Hospice Society in 1996 to modernize the Karnofsky Performance Scale. Currently, it is being used to measure palliative patient performance status in a variety of settings. Despite its widespread use, only one study has examined the inter-rater reliability of the PPS.
To examine the inter-rater reliability of the PPS in measuring performance status in patients seen in an outpatient palliative radiation oncology clinic
Performance status for 102 consecutive patients was assessed by an oncologist (MD), a radiation therapist (RT), and a research assistant (RA) in the Rapid Response Radiotherapy Program at the Odette Cancer Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Raters' scores were analyzed for correlation and compared to evaluate the inter-rater reliability of the PPS tool.
Excellent correlation was found between the scores rated by the MD and RA (r = 0.86); good correlation was observed between scores rated by the MD and RT (r = 0.69) and the RT and RA (r = 0.77). Scores between all three raters, as well as between rater pairs, were also found to have good reliability as measured by the Chronbach's alpha coefficient. Significant results were obtained for the range of PPS scores in which the majority of our patients fell: 40-80%.
PPS was shown to have good overall inter-rater reliability in an outpatient palliative setting, but more research is needed to establish the validity and reliability of the tool in a variety of different palliative settings.
GOALS: (1). To describe what aspects are important when next-of-kin evaluate advanced palliative home care (APHC) and (2). to compare the expressed aspects and describe eventual differences among the three settings, which differed in terms of length of services, geographic location, and population size. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Four to 7 months after the patient's death (87% from cancer), 217 consecutive next-of-kin from three different settings in Sweden responded (response rate 86%) to three open-ended questions via a postal questionnaire. Qualitative content analysis was performed. MAIN RESULTS: Service aspects and comfort emerged as main categories. The staff's competence, attitude and communication, accessibility, and spectrum of services were valued service aspects. Comfort, such as feeling secure, was another important aspect and it concerned the next-of-kin themselves, the patients, and the families. Additionally, comfort was related to interactional issues such as being in the center and sharing caring with the staff. The actual place of care (i.e., being at home) added to the perceived comfort. Of the respondents, 87% described positive aspects of APHC and 28% negative aspects. No major differences were found among the different settings. CONCLUSIONS: Next-of-kin incorporate service aspects and aspects relating to the patient's and family's comfort when evaluating APHC. The importance of these aspects is discussed in relation to the content of palliative care and potential goals.