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Gastrostomies in palliative care

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In palliative care, gastrostomies are used to provide nutritional support or to decompress the bowel. To evaluate what happened to the patients monitored at our palliative care unit (PCU) who underwent gastrostomy between October 1994 and January 2005, a retrospective audit was made.


The charts of 154 patients were reviewed.


The most frequent reason why a patient underwent a gastrostomy was dysphagia due to head and neck and/or esophageal cancer. Only one patient underwent a drainage gastrostomy because of intestinal obstruction. Interventional radiology performed 96% of the gastrostomies. Early complications occurred in 53 patients (34%) who underwent the gastrostomy for feeding and the most common was local pain, usually mild. However, there was one death due to peritonitis, probably related with the procedure. Late complications also occurred in 53 patients and major complications occurred in 22 patients, the most common was extrusion. The median survival after the performance of the gastrostomy was 61 days (range 1 to 551 days). Nineteen patients (12%) survived 1 week or less, 28 (18%) between 8 and 30 days, 51 (33%) from 31 to 90 days, 53 (35%) 91 days or more, and one unknown. The patient who underwent a gastrostomy for bowel obstruction survived for only 7 days. One hundred and twenty-five patients (81%) died at the PCU, 26 (17%) at home, and four (3%) at other places.

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Correspondence to Ferraz Gonçalves.

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Gonçalves, F., Mozes, M., Saraiva, I. et al. Gastrostomies in palliative care. Support Care Cancer 14, 1147–1151 (2006).

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