Palliative Care Approaches for Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

An elderly patient wearing an oxygen mask
An elderly patient wearing an oxygen mask
A multidisciplinary palliative care team may significantly benefit patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Individuals with troublesome symptoms as a result of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may significantly benefit from treatment by a multidisciplinary palliative care team, according to a study published in the Lancet.

Researchers identified multiple troublesome physical and psychological symptoms in patients with COPD, such as breathlessness, fatigue, cough, pain, sleeplessness, end-of-life anxiety, and caregiver burden, and outlined numerous evidence-based interventions offered by palliative care teams that address these symptoms, improving patient quality of life.

Support for family and caregivers, communication regarding explanations of care, and end-of-life preferences are all services that can be offered to patients with COPD, even while still receiving pulmonary rehabilitation and therapeutic disease treatment.

This study emphasized the benefits of integrating palliative care early in the care of patients with COPD based on the identified symptomatic benefits from palliative care services, rather than on disease prognosis. Models of care proposed include short-term palliative care, care based on troublesome symptoms, and consultation for complex patients in areas with limited access to palliative care teams.

The investigators encourage clinicians to be aware of patients with COPD who may benefit from the services offered by a multidisciplinary palliative care team, refer those individuals identified as candidates for palliative care, and improve overall patient access to palliative care.

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Maddocks M, Lovell N, Booth S, Man WDC, Higginson I. Palliative care and management of troublesome symptoms for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Lancet. 2017;390(10098):988-1002