Opioid switching in patients with advanced cancer followed at home. A retrospective analysis

Alessandra Casuccio, Claudio Adile, Sebastiano Mercadante, Giampiero Porzio, Alessandro Valle, Flavio Fusco, Federica Aielli

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AbstractCONTEXT: Opioid switching has been found to improve opioid responsiveness in different conditions. However, data on opioid switching performed at home are almost nonexistent, despite the fact that most patients are followed at home.OBJECTIVES: The aim of this retrospective survey was to determine frequency, indications, usefulness, and safety of opioid switching when treating advanced cancer-related pain in patients followed at home.METHODS: A retrospective review of data from patients with advanced cancer followed at home by three home care teams for a period of two years was performed. Patients who had their opioids switched were selected. Reasons for switching opioid doses and routes of administration and outcomes were collected.RESULTS: Two hundred one (17%) of 1141 patients receiving "strong" opioids were switched. The mean Karnofsky Performance Status score was 35.6, and the median survival was 30 days. The most frequent reason to switch was for convenience, and the most frequent switch was to parenteral morphine. In most patients, a better analgesic response was observed. Patients who were switched to parenteral morphine had a shorter survival in comparison with other opioid sequences (P<0.0005). After switching, opioid doses were increased by 23% and 41%, after a week and at time of death, respectively.CONCLUSION: Opioid switching was useful for most patients in the home environment, at least in less complex circumstances, when done by experienced home care teams. Prospective studies are needed to provide information about the decision to admit to hospital for this purpose and the predictive factors that may relatively contraindicate transportation to a facility in severely ill patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)298-304
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Publication statusPublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine

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    Casuccio, A., Adile, C., Mercadante, S., Porzio, G., Valle, A., Fusco, F., & Aielli, F. (2013). Opioid switching in patients with advanced cancer followed at home. A retrospective analysis. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 45, 298-304.