Background High flow nasal cannula (HFNC) has a role in managing chronic and acute respiratory failure. Many published reports suggest that HFNC decreases breathing frequency and work of breathing and reduces needs of escalation of respiratory support in patients with diverse underlying diseases. These properties may provide beneficial symptom control where reversibility of the condition is not possible.
Method Our aim was to evaluate end of life care delivered in patients who received HFNC in their terminal admission. These patients were identified via database kept by Critical Care Outreach Nurses from December 2019 - February 2020. Data was collected retrospectively from electronic notes.
Results 33 patient notes were reviewed (mean age= 77.2 years (15 female, 18 Male)). A majority (24) were admitted from home, with the remainder from nursing or residential care. Initiation of HFNC happened throughout the hospital (Emergency Department and admission unit= 14, Respiratory unit= 8, other medical wards= 6, Non-medical wards= 5). The primary indication for commencing HFNC was pneumonias (15), with an average duration of 7.24 days. 15 patients weaned off HFNC, 11 died with HFNC in situ, 4 did not tolerate treatment, 2 were discharged to community for end of life care and 1 was intubated. Regarding the recognition and management of the dying patient: 31 were recognised to be dying by medical teams and of these, 29 had documented discussions regarding end of life care with patient or relatives. 27 patients were referred to Palliative Care for specialist advice and 27 were prescribed anticipatory medications for symptom management.
Conclusion There was clear evidence of good symptom management and onward referral to Specialist Palliative Care for patients who were treated with HFNC during their final admission. However, we are limited by reviewing retrospective documentation and the likely change in practice given the Covid-19 pandemic.
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