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Open Access Research article

Palliative inpatients in general hospitals: a one day observational study in Belgium

Marianne S Desmedt1*, Yolande L de la Kethulle2, Myriam I Deveugele3, Emmanuel A Keirse4, Dominique J Paulus5, Johan J Menten6, Steven R Simoens7, Paul J vanden Berghe4 and Claire M Beguin8*

Author Affiliations

1 Unité de Soins Continus, Cliniques Universitaires Saint Luc, Université Catholique de Louvain, 10 avenue Hippocrate, 1200 Bruxelles, Belgique

2 Centre Interdisciplinaire en Economie de la Santé, Ecole de Santé Publique, Université Catholique de Louvain, clos Chapelle aux Champs, 30, 1200 Bruxelles, Belgique

3 Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care, Universiteit Gent, De Pintelaan 185, 9000 Gent, België

4 Federatie Palliatieve Zorg Vlaanderen, Vander Vekenstraat 158, 1780 Wemmel, België

5 Centre Fédéral d'Expertise des Soins de Santé, Centre Administratif du Botanique, Door Building (10° étage), Bd du Jardin Botanique 55, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgique

6 Radiotherapie-oncologie, Universitair Ziekenhuis Leuven, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Herestraat 49, 3000 Leuven, België

7 Onderzoekscentrum voor Farmaceutische Zorg en Farmaco-economie, Faculteit Farmaceutische Wetenschappen, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Herestraat 49, 3000 Leuven, België

8 Informations et Statistiques Médicales, Cliniques Universitaires Saint Luc, Université Catholique de Louvain, 10 avenue Hippocrate, 1200 Bruxelles, Belgique

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BMC Palliative Care 2011, 10:2  doi:10.1186/1472-684X-10-2

Published: 2 March 2011

Abstract

Background

Hospital care plays a major role at the end-of-life. But little is known about the overall size and characteristics of the palliative inpatient population. The aim of our study was to analyse these aspects.

Methods

We conducted a one-day observational study in 14 randomly selected Belgian hospitals. Patients who met the definition of palliative patients were identified as palliative. Then, information about their socio-demographic characteristics, diagnoses, prognosis, and care plan were recorded and analysed.

Results

There were 2639 in-patients on the day of the study; 9.4% of them were identified as "palliative". The mean age of the group was 72 years. The primary diagnosis was cancer in 51% of patients and the estimated life expectancy was shorter than 3 months in 33% of patients and longer than 1 year in 28% of patients. The professional caregivers expected for most of the patients (73%), that the treatment would improve patient comfort rather than prolong life. Antibiotics, transfusions, treatments specific to the pathology, and artificial nutrition were administered in 90%, 78%, 57% and 50% of the patients, respectively, but were generally given with a view to controlling the symptoms.

Conclusions

This analysis presents a first national estimate of the palliative inpatient population. Our results confirm that hospitals play a major role at the end-of-life, with one out of ten inpatients identified as a "palliative" patient. These data also demonstrate the complexity of the palliative population and the substantial diversity of care that they can require.