The use of corticosteroids in home palliative care

Fabio Fulfaro, Alessandra Casuccio, Sebastiano Mercadante, Fabio Fulfaro

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72 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence for the effectiveness of corticosteroids in palliative care is anecdotal, and more information is required. From January to December 1999 a total of 376 consecutive patients admitted to a home palliative care program were longitudinally surveyed. Patients who started a corticosteroid treatment after admission on the basis of common indications prescribed by their home care physicians were selected. Fifty patients were enrolled in the study. Dexametha-sone, in doses ranging from 4 to 16 mg, was the drug of choice. Corticosteroids were found to be effective in anorexia, weakness, headache, and nausea and vomiting. The reduction of symptom intensity was achieved in less than 3 days on average. However, no great advantages were found in terms of controlling drowsiness or confusional states associated with advanced illness because of cerebral involvement. It can be concluded from this study that: (a) corticosteroids may be effective in controlling anorexia, weakness, headache, and nausea and vomiting associated with cerebral involvement or bowel obstruction; (b) they should be stopped if no therapeutic effect has become evident within 3-5 days; (c) the treatment is not useful when given in the presence of severe neurological impairment resulting from the advanced stage of disease; (d) the range of adverse effects was acceptable for limited periods and in the circumstances in which the preparations were used in this study; and (e) corticosteroids may have an adjuvant role in potentiation of analgesic drugs. These findings will be very useful in the planning of future controlled studies designed to yield evidence-based data on the role of corticosteroids in the relief of specific symptoms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)386-389
Number of pages4
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Publication statusPublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology

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