Eur J Pediatr 2019 Dec 17;178(12):1893-1902. Epub 2019 Oct 17.
Medical Faculty, Department of Pediatric Oncology, Hematology and Clinical Immunology, Center for Child and Adolescent Health, University of Duesseldorf, Duesseldorf, Germany.
Life-limiting conditions in children in specialized pediatric palliative care (PPC) are manifold. The "Together for Short Lives" (TfSL) association established four disease categories, which represent the most common illness trajectories. Better understanding the palliative care needs and symptoms of children within these TfSL groups will result in improved anticipation of clinical problems and tailored care. During this retrospective single-center cohort study, 198 children, adolescents, and young adults (CAYAs) were in PPC. Mean age at referral was 8.7 years (range 0.0-25.0), mean duration of care 355 days (range 1-2754). One hundred six (53.5%) CAYAs died during the study period. Sixty-five (32.8%) CAYAs were assigned to TfSL-1, 13 (6.6%) to TfSL-2, 49 (24.7%) to TfSL-3, and 71 (35.9%) to TfSL-4. Home visits were conducted on average every 9.6 days in TfSL-1, 18.9 days in TfSL-2, 31.7 days in TfSL-3, and 31.8 days in TfSL-4 (p value < 0.01).Conclusions: Intensity of palliative care significantly differed between the TfSL groups. Neurological and gastrointestinal symptoms were most prominent across all TfSL groups. Symptom cluster analysis showed distinct clusters in TfSL-1 (cluster 1, fatigue/lack of appetite/nausea/somnolence; cluster 2, dyspnea/fear/myoclonus/seizures/spasticity) and TfSL-3/4 (cluster 1, spasticity; cluster 2, all other symptoms).What is Known:• The four TfSL (together for short lives) groups represent the four most common illness trajectories of pediatric palliative care patients.• Better understanding the palliative care needs and symptoms of children within these four TfSL groups will result in improved anticipation of clinical problems and tailored care.What is New:• In our study, TfSL-1 represented the largest individual group of patients, also requiring the most intensive care (defined by the number of visits per days of care).• Symptom cluster analysis revealed distinct symptom clusters in TfSL-1 and TfSL-3/4, which can be used to anticipate clinically common challenges in these patients.