Only 30% of high-risk surgery patients get palliative care, study finds

Although receiving palliative care improves the overall care experience of high-risk surgery patients and their families, only one-third of these patients in a recent study received a palliative care consultation, according to a study published in JAMA Surgery.

Researchers examined the link between providing perioperative palliative care and end-of-life care experiences of patients who died within three months of a high-risk surgery, as reported by their families. They analyzed administrative data from patients within the Department of Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. They included 95,204 patients, who underwent one of 227 high-risk operations in VA medical centers between Jan. 1, 2012, and Dec. 31, 2015.

Of the 95,204 patients, 5,740 died within three months of high-risk surgery.

Only one-third, or 29.9 percent of patients who died within three months of surgery, had a palliative care consultation, of which 5.6 percent received the consultation before surgery.

Researchers found that families of patients who died within three months of surgery and who received palliative care were 47 percent more likely to rate overall care in the last month of life as excellent than those who did not. Also, families of decedents who received palliative care were more likely to rate end-of-life communication and support as excellent.

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