Palliative medicine in a United States cancer center: A prospective study

John D. Cowan, Declan Walsh, Jade Homsi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Purpose:(a) To report the medical complexity of cancer and noncancer patients receiving palliative medicine (PM) consultation at a tertiary medical center and (b) to describe the consult recommendations made for this group.Patients and methods:Prospective data collection was performed on all consultations (cancer, n = 175; non-cancer, n = 35) done by first author (JDC) as a PM fellow at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation between July 1998 and April 1999. A computer database was used to query for demographics, complexity of medical problems, current medications, mortality, symptoms, nursing problems, and consult recommendations.Results:A median of three (range, 0-12) acute medical problems and three (range, 0-16) chronic medical problems were identified for each patient. Patients were taking a median of six medications (range, 0-20). They had a median of five symptoms (range, 0-13) with pain (73 percent) being most common, followed by weakness (40 percent) and shortness of breath (40 percent). Cancer patients were twice as likely to have more than five symptoms (48 percent versus 23 percent) (chi-square = 0.006). The most common nursing problems were ambulation or fall risk (15 percent) and skin integrity (11 percent). A median of five (range, 1-11) management recommendations were made as part of each consultation. These included medication changes in 81 percent, nonmedication changes in 53 percent, and follow-up services in 100 percent. The median survival from the time of consultation for the known dead was 29 days with 65 percent living more than 14 days.Conclusion:Multiple recommendations were made with most patients surviving long enough potentially to benefit. Consultation in palliative medicine is a sophisticated intervention involving considerable acuity and complexity of care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)240-250
Number of pages11
JournalAmerican Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2002


  • care of the dying
  • caregivers
  • character
  • end of life
  • ethics
  • hospice
  • palliative care
  • spirituality
  • virtue

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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