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Radha Krishna LK, Poulose VJ, Goh C
Correspondence: Dr Lalit Kumar Radha Krishna, email@example.com
Introduction This study aimed to describe the patterns of sedative use among terminally ill cancer patients who were referred to a hospital-based specialist palliative care service for symptom management. It also aimed to examine whether sedative use among terminally ill cancer patients during the last two days of life had any impact on their survival.
Methods A retrospective review of case notes was carried out for patients with a diagnosis of terminal cancer, who died in a 95-bedded oncology ward between September 2006 and September 2007. Data was collected on patient characteristics, duration of palliative care, indications and doses of sedatives used at 48 hours and 24 hours before death.
Results A total of 238 patients died while receiving specialist palliative care, 132 of whom (55.5%) were female. At 48 hours and 24 hours before death, 22.6% and 24.8% of patients, respectively, were on sedatives like midazolam, haloperidol or both. The median dose of midazolam was 5 mg/day while the haloperidol dose at 48 hours and 24 hours before death was 3 mg/day and 4 mg/day, respectively. The indications for midazolam were anxiety, breathlessness and stiffness, while those for haloperidol were confusion agitation and nausea. Survival analysis showed no significant difference in survival between patients who were on sedatives and those who were not. The p-value for log-rank test was 0.78.
Conclusion The results showed that the doses and overall frequency of sedative use in this patient population tended to be low and that usage of sedatives had no deleterious influence on survival.
Keywords: midazolam, palliative care, sedatives, survival analysis, terminal cancer
Singapore Med J 2012; 53(1): 62–66