Thursday, 29 May 2008

Interventions for alleviating cancer-related dyspnea: a systematic review

Interventions for alleviating cancer-related dyspnea: a systematic review.
Journal of clinical oncology : official journal of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, 10 May 2008, vol. 26, no. 14, p. 2396-404
Ben-Aharon-Irit, Gafter-Gvili-Anat, Paul-Mical, Leibovici-Leonard, Stemmer-Salomon-M.
PURPOSE: Dyspnea is one of the most distressing symptoms experienced by terminally ill cancer patients. This study aimed to evaluate the role of interventions for the palliation of dyspnea. METHODS: We conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials assessing all pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions for dyspnea palliation in cancer patients, and searched the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE, conference proceedings, and references. Two reviewers independently appraised the quality of trials and extracted data. RESULTS: Our search yielded 18 trials. Fourteen evaluated pharmacologic interventions: seven assessing opioids (a total of 256 patients), five assessing oxygen (137 patients), one assessing helium-enriched air, and one assessing furosemide. Four trials evaluated nonpharmacologic interventions (403 patients). The administration of subcutaneous morphine resulted in a significant reduction in dyspnea Visual Analog Scale (VAS) compared with placebo. No difference was observed in dyspnea VAS score when nebulized morphine was compared with subcutaneous morphine, although patients preferred the nebulized route. The addition of benzodiazepines to morphine was significantly more effective than morphine alone, without additional adverse effects. Oxygen was not superior to air for alleviating dyspnea, except for patients with hypoxemia. Nursing- led interventions improved breathlessness. Acupuncture was not beneficial. CONCLUSION: Our review supports the use of opioids for dyspnea relief in cancer patients. The use of supplemental oxygen to alleviate dyspnea can be recommended only in patients with hypoxemia. Nursing-led nonpharmacologic interventions seem valuable. Only a few studies addressing this question were performed. Thus, further studies evaluating interventions for alleviating dyspnea are warranted.

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