Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 26, Issue 9, pp 3173–3180 | Cite as

Palliative sedation in advanced cancer patients hospitalized in a specialized palliative care unit

  • Santiago Parra Palacio
  • Clara Elisa Giraldo Hoyos
  • Camilo Arias Rodríguez
  • Daniel Mejía Arrieta
  • John Jairo Vargas Gómez
  • Alicia Krikorian
Original Article



To describe the practice of palliative sedation (PS) in patients with advanced cancer in a specialized palliative care (PC) unit in Colombia.


Descriptive prospective study including all adults with cancer hospitalized under PS in a cancer institute between January and July 2015 in Colombia. Variables examined were diagnosis, physical functioning, symptoms at the start of sedation, medications and dosages used, and type, level, and time of sedation. Descriptive and correlational statistics were obtained.


Sixty-six patients were included, 70% of which were women. The patients had an average age of 61 years (range 24–87), and 74% had a Karnofsky Index (KI) of 50% or less. The most frequent diagnosis was breast cancer (22%), and 82% had metastatic cancer. The prevalence of palliative sedation was 2% and the most common symptoms indicating it were dyspnea (59%), delirium (45%), and pain (32%). All patients received midazolam as a sedative. The average time between the interval start and culmination of sedation was 44 h. There was a significant and inverse relationship between functionality and time under sedation.


Palliative sedation is a valid therapeutic option for refractory symptoms causing suffering. The results correspond to international reports and guidelines, which suggests that PS is tailored to the needs of the individual patient while maintaining a high scientific standard, even in a context where PC is under development. However, further development of strategies and clear indications towards the use of PS in Colombia are needed, given its still scarce use.


Palliative care Terminal care Deep sedation Evaluation of symptoms Neoplasia Cancer 



We thank the Instituto de Cancerología, Clínica Las Américas (IDC) in Medellin, Colombia, for allowing us to develop our study at their institution and Carolina Palacio for her contributions in the analysis of the data.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Formal consent was not required.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Clinica SomerRionegroColombia
  2. 2.MedicáncerMedellinColombia
  3. 3.Faculty of MedicineUniversidad Pontificia BolivarianaMedellinColombia
  4. 4.Pain and Palliative Care Group, School of Health Sciences, Palliative Care Unit, Instituto de Cancerología, Clínica Las AméricasUniversidad Pontificia BolivarianaMedellinColombia
  5. 5.Pain and Palliative Care Group, School of Health SciencesUniversidad Pontificia BolivarianaMedellinColombia

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