Palliative Care

Palliative Care is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

To view the entire topic, please or purchase a subscription.

Medicine Central™ is a quick-consult mobile and web resource that includes diagnosis, treatment, medications, and follow-up information on over 700 diseases and disorders, providing fast answers—anytime, anywhere. Explore these free sample topics:

Medicine Central

-- The first section of this topic is shown below --


Palliative care is a specialty that focuses on preventing and alleviating suffering of patients (and their families) living with life-limiting illness at any stage.


  • The principal goal of palliative care is to prevent and alleviate suffering—whether physical (pain, breathlessness, nausea, etc.), emotional, social, or spiritual regardless of underlying diagnosis.
  • Palliative care is an interdisciplinary approach to caring for patients and families.
  • Palliative care aims to improve or maintain quality of life for patients and families despite serious illness.
  • Palliative care is available for patients with serious, life-limiting illness, at any stage of their disease, with or without concurrent curative care.
  • Patients and their families may access palliative care services in the hospital, rehabilitation or skilled nursing facility, and ambulatory setting.
  • Hospice: In the United Sates, hospice is available for patients whose average life expectancy is 6 months or less and whose principal goal is to stay home (including long-term care or assisted living facility), avoid hospitalizations, and forego disease-directed care with a curative intent. Unlike regular home nursing services, hospice does not require a patient to be homebound and offers backup support for patients 24 hours a day and 7 days per week.

Commonly Associated Conditions

Common symptoms/syndromes in palliative care:

  • Pain
    • Chronic pain
    • Headache
    • Neuropathic pain
    • Pain from bone metastases
  • GI symptoms (~60% incidence)
    • Ascites
    • Anorexia/cachexia
    • Nausea (and vomiting)
      • Consider underlying etiology and treat accordingly.
        • GI causes: constipation, bowel (full or partial) obstruction, ileus, heart burn, reflux, inflammation
        • Intrathoracic causes: cardiac, effusions (cardiac, pulmonary), mediastinal causes, esophageal disease
        • Autonomic dysfunction
        • Centrally mediated: intracranial pressure change, inflammation, cerebellar, vestibular, medication or metabolic cause stimulating vomiting center, and/or chemoreceptor trigger zone
    • Bowel obstruction
    • Constipation and impaction of stool
    • Diarrhea
    • Dysphagia
    • Mucositis/stomatitis
    • Sialorrhea
  • General medical
    • Delirium (40–85%)
  • Pulmonary symptoms
    • Cough, chronic
    • Breathlessness or dyspnea (60%): which may be due to heart failure, COPD, lung cancer, etc.
  • Psychological symptoms
    • Anxiety
    • Depression
    • Insomnia
  • Skin
    • Decubitus ulcer
    • Pruritus
    • Complex wounds (fungating tumors, etc.)

-- To view the remaining sections of this topic, please or purchase a subscription --