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Genitourinary aspects of palliative care 

Genitourinary aspects of palliative care
Genitourinary aspects of palliative care

Olivia T. Lee

, Jennifer N. Wu

, Frederick J. Meyers

, and Christopher P. Evans

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date: 24 January 2022

Genitourinary tract diseases in the palliative care setting most commonly involve urinary tract obstruction, intractable bleeding, fistulae, and bladder-associated pain. Sources of obstruction in the lower urinary tract include benign prostatic hyperplasia, invasive prostate or bladder cancer, urethral stricture, or bladder neck contracture. Upper tract obstruction includes intraluminal or extraluminal blockage of the renal collecting system and ureters, such as transitional cell carcinoma, fibroepithelial polyps, stricture, stones, pelvic or retroperitoneal malignancy, fibrosis, or prior radiation. Untreated, obstructive uropathy leads to elevated bladder, ureter, and kidney pressures, bladder dysfunction, urolithiasis, renal failure, pyelonephritis, or urosepsis. Intractable haematuria can cause problematic anaemia, frequent transfusions, clot retention, haemorrhagic shock, and death. In addition, urinary tract fistulae such as vesicovaginal and vesicoenteric fistulae are common in patients who have had prior pelvic surgery or radiation especially in the setting of immunocompromise, poor nutrition, and infection. Untreated, these symptoms lead to rash, skin breakdown, ulcers, chronic infection, and sepsis. Lastly, pelvic and bladder pain, depending on aetiology can be treated with oral medications, intravesical therapies, or surgical therapies such as palliative resection or urinary diversion. Selection of tests and treatment modalities in the palliative care setting should be based on using the least invasive means to achieve the most relief in suffering. Some genitourinary conditions are potentially fatal, and in the acute or subacute setting, require re-evaluation of the end-of-life goals and wishes of the patient and family.

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