Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 20, Issue 6, pp 1299–1307 | Cite as

Palliative sedation at the end of life at a tertiary cancer center

  • Augusto Caraceni
  • Ernesto Zecca
  • Cinzia Martini
  • Giovanna Gorni
  • Tiziana CampaEmail author
  • Cinzia Brunelli
  • Franco De Conno
Original Article



The aim of this study was to describe the use of palliative sedation (PS) its indications and outcomes in patients followed up till death by an inpatient palliative care consult team (PCCT) at a tertiary cancer center.


All patients referred for 5 years to the PCCT and followed up till death were eligible for the study. Both PCCT recordings and hospital charts were reviewed and a codified assessment was performed.


Over a total of 2,033 consecutive consults, 129 patients died during admission and were eligible. Eighty-three had the indication to PS, 4% of all consults (95% confidence interval [95%CI], 3% to 5%) and 64% of eligible patients (95%CI, 56% to 73%). PS was more frequently indicated in males and in patients with recurrent dyspnea and recurrent agitation, while it was less frequently indicated in older people and in patients with cerebral metastases and recurrent drowsiness. The most frequent indications to PS were dyspnea (37%) and delirium (31%) alone or combined with other symptoms. PS was successfully achieved in 69 patients; the drugs most frequently used for PS were midazolam (46%), haloperidol (35%), and chlorpromazine (32%) and opioid dose escalation was higher in sedated patients (P < 0.01).


PS is an important intervention in the management of terminal disease by a consulting palliative care team. Improved collaboration and communication between the hospital staff and the PCCT should be offered to meet patients’ needs when PS is required.


Palliative sedation Palliative care End-of-life care Cancer 



This work was partially funded by the Floriani Foundation of Milan and Associazione Italiana per la Ricerca sul Cancro, grant no. IG9347.

Conflict of interest

The authors have no conflict of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Augusto Caraceni
    • 1
  • Ernesto Zecca
    • 1
  • Cinzia Martini
    • 1
  • Giovanna Gorni
    • 1
  • Tiziana Campa
    • 1
    Email author
  • Cinzia Brunelli
    • 1
  • Franco De Conno
    • 1
  1. 1.Palliative Care, Pain Therapy and Rehabilitation UnitFondazione IRCCS—Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori—MilanoMilanItaly

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