Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 21, Issue 7, pp 1853–1859

Opioid use and effectiveness of its prescription at discharge in an acute pain relief and palliative care unit

  • Sebastiano Mercadante
  • Giovanna Prestia
  • Maurizio Ranieri
  • Antonello Giarratano
  • Alessandra Casuccio
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s00520-013-1740-8

Cite this article as:
Mercadante, S., Prestia, G., Ranieri, M. et al. Support Care Cancer (2013) 21: 1853. doi:10.1007/s00520-013-1740-8

Abstract

The aim of this study was to present how opioids are used in an acute pain relief and palliative care unit (APRPCU), where many patients with difficult pain conditions are admitted from GPs, home palliative care programs, oncology departments, other hospitals or emergency units, and other regional places. From a consecutive sample of cancer patients admitted to an APRPCU for a period of 6 months, patients who had been administered opioids were included in this survey. Basic information was collected as well as opioid therapy prescribed at admission and, subsequently, during admission and at time of discharge. Patients were discharged once stabilization of pain and symptoms were obtained and the treatment was considered to be optimized. One week after being discharged, patients or relatives were contacted by phone to gather information about the availability of opioids at dosages prescribed at time of discharge. One hundred eighty six of 231 patients were specifically admitted for uncontrolled pain, with a mean pain intensity of 6.8 (SD 2.5). The mean dose of oral morphine equivalents in patients receiving opioids before admission was 45 mg/day (range 10–500 mg). One hundred seventy five patients (75.7 %) were prescribed around the clock opioids at admission. About one third of patients changed treatment (opioid or route). Forty two of 175 (24 %), 27/58 (46.5 %), 10/22 (45.4 %), and 2/4 (50 %) patients were receiving more than 200 mg of oral morphine equivalents, as maximum dose of the first, second, third, and fourth opioid prescriptions, respectively. The pattern of opioids changed, with the highest doses administered with subsequent line options. The mean final dose of opioids, expressed as oral morphine equivalents, for all patients was 318 mg/day (SD 798), that is more than six times the doses of pre-admission opioid doses. One hundred eighty six patients (80.5 %) were prescribed a breakthrough cancer pain (BTcP) medication at admission. Sixty five patients changed their BTcP prescription, and further 27 patients changed again. Finally, eight patients were prescribed a fourth BTcP medication. Of 46 patients available for interview, the majority of them (n = 39, 84 %) did not have problems with their GPs, who facilitated prescription and availability of opioids at the dosages prescribed at discharge. For patients with severe distress, APRPCUs may guarantee a high-level support to optimize pain and symptom intensities providing intensive approach and resolving highly distressing situations in a short time by optimizing the use of opioids.

Keywords

Opioid use Pain relief Palliative care 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sebastiano Mercadante
    • 1
    • 2
  • Giovanna Prestia
    • 1
  • Maurizio Ranieri
    • 2
  • Antonello Giarratano
    • 2
  • Alessandra Casuccio
    • 3
  1. 1.Pain relief and palliative care unitLa Maddalena Cancer CenterPalermoItaly
  2. 2.Palliative Medicine TeachingUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly
  3. 3.Department of Experimental Biomedicine and Clinical NeuroscienceUniversity of PalermoPalermoItaly

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