The Use of Opioids in the Last Week of Life in an Acute Palliative Care Unit.


Abstract:  The aim of this survey was to assess the opioid use in the last week of life of cancer patients admitted at an acute palliative care unit. From a consecutive sample of patients surveyed for a period of one year, patients who died in the unit were selected. Type of opioid, route of administration, and doses were recorded one week before death (or at admission time if the interval admission-death was less than one week) (-7), and on the day of death (Tend). Seventy-seven patients died in the unit in the period taken into consideration (12.4%). Oral morphine equivalents were 170 mg/day and 262 mg/day at -7 and Tend, respectively. Patients were receiving transdermal drugs or intravenous morphine at Tend, with a trend in the use of intravenous morphine at Tend (p=0.07). Intravenous morphine was more frequently used in sedated patients at Tend (p=0.015).No differences in age, gender, opioid doses, and OEI were found among opioids used. In patients who were sedated doses of opioids were significantly increased (p=0.012). In the last week of life intravenous morphine is the preferred modality to deliver opioids in an acute palliative care unit. Doses increases prevalently observed in sedated patients were performed before starting sedation with the purpose to treat concomitant distressing symptoms, such as dyspnoea.


American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care


Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2010 May 3.

Resource Type:

Journal Article


Mercadante S, Ferrera P, Casuccio A.