Palliat Med. 2021 May 13:2692163211013255. doi: 10.1177/02692163211013255. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: COVID-19 has tragically resulted in over 2.5 million deaths globally. Despite this, there is a lack of research on how to care for patients dying of COVID-19, specifically pharmacological management of symptoms.
AIM: The aim was to determine the dose ranges of pharmacological interventions commonly used to manage symptoms in adult patients dying of COVID-19, establish how effectiveness of these interventions was measured, and whether the pharmacological interventions were effective.
DESIGN: This was a rapid systematic review with narrative synthesis of evidence, prospectively registered on PROSPERO (ID: CRD42020210892).
DATA SOURCES: We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL via the NICE Evidence Health Databases Advanced Search interface; medRxiv; the Cochrane COVID-19 Study Register; and Google Scholar with no date limits. We included primary studies which documented care of patients dying of COVID-19 under the care of a specialist palliative care team.
RESULTS: Seven studies, documenting the care of 493 patients met the inclusion criteria. Approximately two thirds of patients required a continuous subcutaneous infusion with median doses of 15 mg morphine and 10 mg midazolam in the last 24 h of life. Four studies described effectiveness by retrospective review of documentation. One study detailed the effectiveness of individual medications.
CONCLUSIONS: A higher proportion of patients required continuous subcutaneous infusion than is typically encountered in palliative care. Doses of medications required to manage symptoms were generally modest. There was no evidence of a standardised yet holistic approach to measure effectiveness of these medications and this needs to be urgently addressed.