Are pediatric patients just short adults? most commonly prescribed drugs for pediatric hospice patients


Are pediatric patients just short adults? most commonly prescribed drugs for pediatric hospice patients


Sera L;Morgan J;McPherson ML


Postgraduate Medicine




hospice patient;pediatric patient;acid;adult;cancer patient;central nervous system cancer;chi square test;Child;conference abstract;constipation;controlled study;corticosteroid;death;diagnosis;diazepam;diphenhydramine;drug formulation;drug therapy;dyspnea;Female;genetic disorder;haloperidol;hospice care;human;hyoscyamine;institutional review;laxative;Length of Stay;levetiracetam;lorazepam;macrogol;major clinical study;metoclopramide;morphine;nausea;ondansetron;opiate;pain;paracetamol;patient information;practice guideline;preschool child;prochlorperazine;retrospective study;salbutamol;seizure;unclassified drug;vitamin


Purpose According to the most recently published data from National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, approximately 78% of hospice providers in the United States serve pediatric patients, and the majority of these serve 1-10 patients per year. As with adult patients, palliative care for children focuses on holistic care, including the alleviation of physical, psychosocial, and spiritual suffering. Medications are used in hospice patients to palliate physical symptoms of terminal illness, including pain, dyspnea, nausea, and fatigue. The purpose of this study was to characterize the most commonly prescribed medications and medication classes in a population of pediatric hospice patients. Methods We conducted a retrospective review of a patient information database compiled by a national hospice organization. The database contained demographic information, as well as information on drug name, dosage, formulation, and strength. Medications were also characterized by pharmacological class. We compared proportions of the most commonly prescribed pharmacological classes among the three most common admitting diagnoses: cancer, central nervous system disorders, and genetic disorders. We used chi-square test or Fisher's exact test to detect any associations between admitting diagnosis and drug class. The institutional review board at the University of Maryland determined that this study was not human subjects research. Results Of 177 patients in the database, 116 patients were included in the study; these patients were admitted to hospice on or after January 1, 2011 and discharged by death on or before December 31, 2016. Sixty-one patients who were discharged prior to death were excluded. The average age of patients at admission was 6 years old (SD = 6.1) and 63% of patients were female. The median length of stay was 14.5 days (range: 0-411 days). A total of 3 017 medication orders were evaluated. Medication classes used for symptom management were most commonly prescribed. Six of the 10 most commonly prescribed drugs (morphine, lorazepam, acetaminophen, hyoscyamine, prochlorperazine, and haloperidol) were all included in the symptom management medication kits provided to most patients at admission. Other drugs prescribed for over 20% of patients included metoclopramide, diphenhydramine, albuterol, altropine, ondansetron, diazepam, polyethylene glycol, levetiracetam. Opioid analgesics, anxiolytics, anticholinergics, and antiemetics were prescribed to over 50% of patients at some point during admission. Other frequently prescribed medication classes non-opioid anageiscs, anticonvulsants, antiinfectives, laxatives, corticosteroids, acid reducers, antipsychotics, and vitamins/supplements. Of the 20 most commonly prescribed drug classes, patients with cancer were significantly more likely than those with CNS disorders or genetic disorders to be prescribed anticholinergics (p = 0.03), antiemetics (p < 0.0001), non-opioid analgesics (p = 0.003), laxatives (p = 0.003), corticosteroids (p = 0.0004), antihistamines (p = 0.01), acid reducers (p = 0.03), and antipsychotics (p < 0.0001). Conclusions Medications commonly prescribed for children receiving hospice care include those intended to treat symptoms including pain, dyspnea, nausea, seizures, and constipation. A general understanding of medications used in hospice care may be helpful in the development of educational materials, medications guidelines and protocols, and questions for future research.


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Sera L;Morgan J;McPherson ML, “Are pediatric patients just short adults? most commonly prescribed drugs for pediatric hospice patients,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed December 3, 2023,