Objectives To investigate the efficacy and safety of subcutaneous clonidine for refractory symptoms in the palliative setting.
Methods A retrospective chart review of the use of subcutaneous clonidine in a single palliative care centre. We reviewed the use of clonidine since it was introduced in our locality 2½ years ago. All clinical notes, medication administration records and infusion monitoring documentation were examined to ascertain therapeutic aim, efficacy and tolerability.
Results Subcutaneous clonidine was administered to 113 patients. Recipients were generally frail (median Karnofsky Score 20%) and in the last weeks of life (median survival 6 days). The the most common indications were opioid poorly responsive pain (59), agitation refractory to antipsychotics and/or benzodiazepines (18) or both (35). Symptoms appeared to improve in the majority (85/113, 75%). Some (36, 32%) required no further medication changes once clonidine was commenced. Clonidine appeared well tolerated although blood pressure was not monitored in the majority, in line with our practice to discontinue such observations in those who are nursed in bed and receiving symptom-focused care.
Conclusions Subcutaneous administration of clonidine appears to be a promising alternative option for refractory symptoms in the last weeks of life. We suggest some possible next steps for further research.
- Terminal care
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Contributors PH and JC jointly conceived and conducted the audit; PH analysed the data; PH and JC jointly wrote the manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests PH is an editor for the neuropharmacology sections of the Palliative Care Formulary, and has contributed to updating the clonidine monograph.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Twitter Paul Howard @Paul_Howard_IoW
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