Research Article
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Published Online: 20 January 2005

Sedation for Terminally Ill Patients with Cancer with Uncontrollable Physical Distress

Publication: Journal of Palliative Medicine
Volume 8, Issue Number 1


Background: Relief of distressful symptoms in terminally ill patients with cancer is of prime importance. Use of sedation to accomplish this has been the focus of recent medical studies in countries other than Japan. We investigated the influence on consciousness of sedative drugs in a Japanese hospice.
Design and subjects: We defined sedation as medical procedure to decrease level of consciousness in order to relieve severe physical distress refractory to standard interventions. We excluded increases in doses of morphine or other analgesic drugs resulting in secondary somnolence from the present study. We reviewed medical records of patients receiving sedation among 124 consecutive patients admitted to our palliative care unit between January and December in 1999.
Results: The 63 patients who received sedation (50.3%) died an average of 3.4 days after its initiation. Major symptoms requiring sedation were dyspnea, general malaise/restlessness, pain, agitation, and nausea/vomiting. The Palliative Performance Status (PPS) just before sedation was 20 or less in 83% of patients. Drugs administered for sedation were midazolam, haloperidol, scopolamine hydrobromide, and chlorpromazine. During the few days before death, sedated patients were significantly more drowsy and less responsive than that in those receiving non-sedative treatment.
Conclusions: Our data suggest the effectiveness of sedation in relieving severe, refractory physical symptoms in terminally ill Japanese patients with cancer. Further investigation to confirm safety and effectiveness of sedation in this context is warranted.

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cover image Journal of Palliative Medicine
Journal of Palliative Medicine
Volume 8Issue Number 1February 2005
Pages: 20 - 25
PubMed: 15662170


Published in print: February 2005
Published online: 20 January 2005


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Hiroyuki Kohara
Palliative Care Unit, National Sanyo Hospital, Yamaguchi, Japan.
Department of Internal Medicine, National Sanyo Hospital, Yamaguchi, Japan.
Hiroshi Ueoka
Second Department of Internal Medicine, Okayama University Medical School, Okayama, Japan.
Hiroyasu Takeyama
Department of Internal Medicine, National Sanyo Hospital, Yamaguchi, Japan.
Tomoyuki Murakami
Department of Clinical Research, National Sanyo Hospital, Yamaguchi, Japan.
Tatsuya Morita
Seirei Hospice, Seirei Mikatabara Hospital, Shizuoka, Japan.

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