Impact of an outpatient palliative care consultation and symptom clusters in terminal patients at a tertiary care center in Pakistan

Document Type



Medical College Pakistan; Haematology/Oncology; Surgery


Background: Patients with terminal diseases may benefit physically and psychosocially from an outpatient palliative care visit. Palliative care services are limited in Pakistan. An improved understanding of the symptom clusters present in our population is needed. The first outpatient palliative care center in Karachi, Pakistan, was established at our tertiary care institution. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the impact of a palliative care outpatient consultation on symptom burden in patients with a terminal diagnosis. The secondary aim was to analyze the symptom clusters present in our population.
Methods: Patients with a terminal diagnosis referred to our outpatient palliative department between August 2020-August 2022 were enrolled. The Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) questionnaire was administered at the initial visit and the first follow-up visit at one month. Change in symptom burden was assessed using a Wilcoxon signed ranks test. A principal component analysis with varimax rotation was performed on the symptoms reported at the initial visit to evaluate symptom clusters. The palliative performance scale (PPS) was used to measure the performance status of palliative care patients.
Results: Among the 78 patients included in this study, the average age was 59 ± 16.6 years, 52.6% were males, 99% patients had an oncological diagnosis, and the median duration between two visits was 14 (Q1-Q3: (7.0, 21.0) days. The median PPS level was 60% (Q1-Q3: 50-70). Overall, ESAS scores decreased between the two visits (6.0 (2.8, 11.0), p < 0.001) with statistically significant improvement in pain (5.0 vs. 2.5, p < 0.001), loss of appetite (5.0 vs. 4.0, p = 0.004), depression (2.0 vs. 0.0, p < 0.001), and anxiety (1.5 vs. 0.0, p = 0.032). Based on symptoms at the initial visit, 3 clusters were present in our population. Cluster 1 included anxiety, depression, and wellbeing; cluster 2 included nausea, loss of appetite, tiredness, and shortness of breath; and cluster 3 included drowsiness.
Conclusion: An outpatient palliative care visit significantly improved symptom burden in patients with a terminal diagnosis. Patients may benefit from further development of outpatient palliative care facilities to improve the quality of life in terminally ill patients


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Publication (Name of Journal)

BMC Palliative Care