Is it appropriate to withdraw antibiotics in terminal patients with cancer with infection?
J Palliat Med. 2013 Nov;16(11):1417-22
Authors: Chih AH, Lee LT, Cheng SY, Yao CA, Hu WY, Chen CY, Chiu TY
Abstract Background: Antibiotic administration is frequent in terminal patients with cancer, yet the effects on survival are still under debate. Objective: The aim of this study was to examine the status of infection and the benefit/burden of antibiotic administration on the survival of terminal patients with cancer with infection. Design: A prospective observational study. Setting/Subjects: We studied 799 patients with terminal cancer who were admitted to a palliative care unit in Taiwan between January 2008 and the end of April 2010. Survival was calculated from the first day of admission to the day of death in the palliative care unit or under home care. Measurements: A specially designed assessment tool was used daily to evaluate clinical conditions. Afterwards, it was analyzed at different time points in a weekly team meeting. Multivariate Cox proportional hazard analyses were used to examine the benefit/burden of antibiotic administration on survival. Results: Four hundred fifty-five patients were diagnosed as having at least one episode of infection after first admission. A total of 295 of the 378 (78.0%) with infection received antibiotic treatment upon admission. Multivariate Cox proportional hazard analyses showed that antibiotic administration was related to improved survival for patients who were still alive 1 week after admission (hazard ratio: 0.66, 95% confidence interfal [CI]: 0.46-0.95). However, antibiotics would be a hazard to patients' survival if used in the time 2 days prior to death (hazard ratio: 1.54, 95% CI: 1.22-1.94). Conclusions: The results suggest that with good communication between patients, families, and medical staff, withdrawal of antibiotics should be considered if signs of death appear, in order to avoid unnecessary risks. The possible benefit of prolonged survival should be in line with the goal of care, and also take into account preparing the patient for a dignified death.
PMID: 24215250 [PubMed - in process]