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Safe and effective prescribing for symptom management in palliative care

Harris, Dylan 2019. Safe and effective prescribing for symptom management in palliative care. British Journal of Hospital Medicine 80 (12) , C184. 10.12968/hmed.2019.80.12.C184

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Palliative and end of life care forms an important part of the role of any doctor in training, and an awareness of a structured approach to managing common symptoms and end of life care is essential. Common symptoms include pain, nausea and vomiting, constipation, and breathlessness. Anticipatory prescribing of the 4 A's (analgesic, anti-emetic, anxiolytic, and anti-secretory) is a proactive approach to ensure medication is available, if required, for common symptoms in the last hours to days of life, such as pain, upper airway secretions, anxiety, and agitation. Prescribing or medication errors in relation to symptom control in palliative care can relate to individual errors, poor communication, poor care coordination, equipment and care planning. There are some important key points relating to prescribing to consider, for example, using recognized conversions when changing between opioids and from the oral to syringe drivers route; that diamorphine and morphine are not equipotent; prescribing liquid opioids in milligrams not millilitres where there are multiple concentrations available; making the indication for steroids clear when used, as they are multiple possible indications (and also their intended duration, to avoid unintended longer term sequelae of steroid use); and avoiding the use of oxygen for symptomatic relief of breathlessness in the absence of hypoxia.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Published Online
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Postgraduate Medical and Dental Education
Publisher: Mark Allen Healthcare
ISSN: 1750-8460
Last Modified: 02 Jan 2020 11:30

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