END-OF-LIFE cancer patients can survive for longer periods of time if they receive assisted hydration, according to researchers from the Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Surrey, Surrey, UK. The study, which took place for over a year, showed an increased survival rate of 26% in patients who were given fluids compared to those who were not.
Benefits of Assisted Hydration
During the final week of their lives, more than 200 cancer patients aged between 28 and 98 years received fluids either intravenously or subcutaneously, as they were unable to maintain sufficient fluid intake on their own. Data on clinical problems, interventions, and overall survival were then collected during assessments taken every 4 hours. It was found that these patient’s lives were increased by an average of 1.5 days compared to those who did not receive fluids. Additionally, there was good symptom control and minimal side effects displayed following the treatment.
The team acknowledged that while prolonging the lives of such patients can often be beneficial, it is not necessarily the best thing to do in all cases. Dr Andrew Davies, Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Trust, commented: “The provision of clinically assisted hydration at the end-of-life is one of the most contentious issues in medicine. The results of this study are certainly interesting, but a larger study is needed to confirm the role of clinically assisted hydration at the end of life. For some patients and their families, living an extra day or so may extremely important, as it can give them the opportunity to say their goodbyes, have family arrive from abroad, write a will, or even get married. Nevertheless, for other patients, living an extra day or so may be the worst thing possible.”
It is still unclear as to why hydration increases the lives of end-of-life patients, and the researchers will be conducting further studies to analyse how this type of therapy can be used enhance the quality of life in such patients.
James Coker, Reporter
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