CONTEXT: Few studies regarding palliative sedation (PS) have been carried out in home care (HC) setting. A comparison of PS rate and practices between hospice (HS) and HC is also lacking.
OBJECTIVES: Comparing HC and HS settings for PS rate, patient clinical characteristics before and during PS, decision-making process, and clinical aspects of PS.
METHODS: About 38 HC/HS services in Italy participated in a multicenter observational longitudinal study. Consecutive adult cancer patients followed till death during a four-month period and undergoing PS were eligible. Symptom control and level of consciousness were registered every eight hours to death.
RESULTS: About 4276 patients were screened, 2894 followed till death, and 531 (18%) underwent PS. PS rate was 15% in HC and 21% in HS (P < 0.001). Principal refractory symptoms were delirium (54%) and dyspnea (45%), respectively, more common in HC (P < 0.001) and HS (P = 0.03). Informed consent was not obtained in 72% of patients but achieved by 96% of families. Midazolam was the most used drug (94% HS vs. 75% HC; P < 0.001) mainly by continuous infusion (74% HC vs. 89% HS; P < 0.001). PS duration was less than 48 hours in 67% of patients. Hydration during PS was less frequent in HC (27% vs. 49%; P < 0.001). In the eight hours before death, consciousness level was unrousable to mild physical stimulation in 81% and symptom control complete in 89% of cases.
CONCLUSION: Our results show feasibility of PS in HC and HS and suggest setting differences in rates, indications, and practice of PS, possibly related to patients' selection or care organization.