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Several studies supported the usefulness of “the surprise question” in terms of 1-year mortality of patients. “The surprise question” requires a “Yes” or “No” answer to the question “Would I be surprised if this patient died in [specific time frame].” However, the 1-year time frame is often too long for advanced cancer patients seen by palliative care personnel. “The surprise question” with shorter time frames is needed for decision making. We examined the accuracy of “the surprise question” for 7-day, 21-day, and 42-day survival in hospitalized patients admitted to palliative care units (PCUs).
This was a prospective multicenter cohort study of 130 adult patients with advanced cancer admitted to 7 hospital-based PCUs in South Korea. The accuracy of “the surprise question” was compared with that of the temporal question for clinician's prediction of survival.
We analyzed 130 inpatients who died in PCUs during the study period. The median survival was 21.0 days. The sensitivity, specificity, and overall accuracy for the 7-day “the surprise question” were 46.7, 88.7, and 83.9%, respectively. The sensitivity, specificity, and overall accuracy for the 7-day temporal question were 6.7, 98.3, and 87.7%, respectively. The c-indices of the 7-day “the surprise question” and 7-day temporal question were 0.662 (95% CI: 0.539–0.785) and 0.521 (95% CI: 0.464–0.579), respectively. The c-indices of the 42-day “the surprise question” and 42-day temporal question were 0.554 (95% CI: 0.509–0.599) and 0.616 (95% CI: 0.569–0.663), respectively.
Significance of results
Surprisingly, “the surprise questions” and temporal questions had similar accuracies. The high specificities for the 7-day “the surprise question” and 7- and 21-day temporal question suggest they may be useful to rule in death if positive.
Spirituality is what gives people meaning and purpose in life, and it has been recognized as a critical factor in patients’ well-being, particularly at the ends of their lives. Studies have demonstrated relationships between spirituality and patient-reported outcomes such as quality of life and mental health. Although a number of studies have suggested that spiritual belief can be associated with mortality, the results are inconsistent. We aimed to determine whether spirituality was related to survival in advanced cancer inpatients in Korea.
For this multicenter study, we recruited adult advanced cancer inpatients who had been admitted to seven palliative care units with estimated survival of <3 months. We measured spirituality at admission using the Korean version of the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spiritual Well-Being (FACIT-sp), which comprises two subscales: meaning/peace and faith. We calculated a Kaplan-Meier curve for spirituality, dichotomized at the predefined cutoffs and medians for the total scale and each of the two subscales, and performed univariate regression with a Cox proportional hazard model.
We enrolled a total of 204 adults (mean age: 64.5 ± 13.0; 48.5% female) in the study. The most common primary cancer diagnoses were lung (21.6%), colorectal (18.6%), and liver/biliary tract (13.0%). Median survival was 19.5 days (95% confidence interval [CI95%]: 23.5, 30.6). Total FACIT-sp score was not related to survival time (hazard ratio [HR] = 0.981, CI95% = 0.957, 1.007), and neither were the scores for its two subscales, meaning/peace (HR = 0.969, CI95% = 0.932, 1.008) and faith (HR = 0.981, CI95% = 0.938, 1.026).
Significance of results
Spirituality was not related to survival in advanced cancer inpatients in Korea. Plausible mechanisms merit further investigation.
The Korean advance directive (K–AD) comprises a value statement, treatment directives, preferences for cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), artificial ventilation, tube feeding, and hospice care, as well as a proxy appointment. The K–AD can facilitate a patient's decision making with respect to end-of-life (EoL) care. The present study aimed to examine the extent to which patient–caregiver dyads would use the K–AD and agree on EoL care decisions.
Using a descriptive study design, 81 cancer patients were invited to participate. The final sample consisted of 44 patient–caregiver dyads who completed survey questionnaires, including the K–AD. One patient did not complete all parts of the questionnaire, and 36 (44.4%) declined to participate. Content analysis was conducted to examine the K–AD value statements. Cohen's kappa coefficient was calculated to determine the degree of patient–caregiver dyadic agreement on K–AD treatment directives (Sudore & Fried, 2010).
Our patient participants had the following cancer diagnoses: colorectal 29.5%, breast 29.5%, and liver/biliary tract cancers, 15.9%. Half of the sample had advanced-stage disease. Spouses (70.5%) or adult children (20.4%) were the primary caregivers, with perceived bonding rated as fair (31.8%) or good (65.9%). Rejection of the K–AD was mainly due to the difficulty involved in deciding on EoL care (50%). Comfort while dying was the most common theme expressed by patients (73.8%) and caregivers (66.7%). In terms of treatment directives, dyads advocated for hospice care (66.7%) and reduced support for aggressive treatments of CPR or artificial ventilation. The use of CPR (κ = 0.43, p = 0.004) and artificial ventilation (κ = 0.28, p = 0.046) showed significantly mild to moderate concordance among the dyads. Some 16 of the 21 dyads identified their spouses as a proxy, with others designating their adult children.
Significance of results:
The degree of patient–caregiver concordance on the K–AD seemed applicable, and achieved mild to moderate concordance. Our findings are exploratory but suggest the need for EoL discussions where patient–caregiver dyads are encouraged to participate in EoL care decision making.
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