Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is a progressive disease with median survival from 2 to 7 years. Palliative care is an important part of patients´ care as lung transplantation is not an option for the majority of patients. The aim of this study was to describe treatment practices, decision-making and symptoms during end-of-life care of IPF patients.
We identified 59 deceased patients from a national prospective IPF cohort study (FinnishIPF) and analyzed retrospectively their health care documentation during the 6 months that preceded death.
Hospital was the place of death for 47 patients (80 %). A majority of the patients (93 %) were hospitalized for a mean of 30 days (range 1–96 days) during the last 6 months of their life. Altogether, patients spent 15 % of their last 6 months of life in a hospital. End-of-life decisions and do not resuscitate (DNR) orders were made for 19 (32 %) and 34 (57 %) of the patients, respectively, and 22 (42 %) of these decisions were made ≤ 3 days prior to death.
During the final hospital stay, antibiotics were given to 79 % and non-invasive ventilation to 36 % of patients. During the last 24 h of life, radiologic imaging or laboratory tests were taken in 19 % and 53 % of the hospitalized patients, respectively. These tests and life prolonging therapies were more common in tertiary hospitals compared to other places of death. Dyspnea (66 %) and pain (31 %) were the most common symptoms recorded. Opioids were prescribed to 71 % of the patients during the last week before death.
The majority of IPF patients died in a hospital with ongoing life-prolonging procedures until death. The frequent use of opioids is an indicator of an intention to relieve symptoms, but end-of-life decisions were still made very late. Early integrated palliative care with advance care plan could improve the end-of-life care of dying IPF patients.