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The use of crisis medication in the management of terminal haemorrhage due to incurable cancer: a qualitative study

Harris, Dylan G., Finlay, Ilora Gillian, Flowers, S. and Noble, Simon Ian Robert ORCID: 2011. The use of crisis medication in the management of terminal haemorrhage due to incurable cancer: a qualitative study. Palliative Medicine 25 (7) , pp. 691-700. 10.1177/0269216311401464

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Background: Terminal haemorrhage is a rare but devastating event that may occur in certain advanced cancers. The focus of management involves administration of ‘crisis medicine’ with the intention of relieving patient distress through sedative doses of anxiolytics or opioids. This practice, whilst widely accepted, is based on limited evidence and has never been formally evaluated. Aim: To evaluate the utility of crisis medication in the management of terminal haemorrhage, through the experiences of nurses who had personally managed such events. Method: Semi-structured interviews exploring the experiences of palliative care and head and neck oncology nurses were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Saturation of themes occurred after interviewing 11 nurses with cumulative experience of managing 37 terminal haemorrhages. Results: Participants reported crisis medication to have little, if any, role in the management of terminal haemorrhage, which was such a rapid event that patients died before it could be administered. As many events had not been predicted, anticipatory prescribing of crisis medication did not always occur. Staying with and supporting the patient, and using dark-coloured towels to camouflage blood were reported to be of more practical use. A focus on accessing crisis medicines had often been to the detriment of these simple yet beneficial measures. Conclusion: Anticipatory prescribing of crisis medication rarely benefits the patient and may unintentionally detract from nursing care. Guidelines on the management of terminal haemorrhage should reconsider the emphasis on crisis medication and focus on non-pharmacological approaches to this invariably fatal event.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Medicine
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0254 Neoplasms. Tumors. Oncology (including Cancer)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Bleeding; cancer; crisis medicine; haemorrhage; palliative; terminal
Publisher: SAGE
ISSN: 0269-2163
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2022 07:49

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