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Palliative care in the intensive cardiac care unit 

Palliative care in the intensive cardiac care unit
Palliative care in the intensive cardiac care unit

Jayne Wood

and Maureen Carruthers


February 22, 2018: This chapter has been re-evaluated and remains up-to-date. No changes have been necessary.

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date: 11 July 2020

Specialist palliative care services originally focused on improving the quality of life for patients with a diagnosis of cancer in the terminal phase of their illness. However, organizations, such as the World Health Organization, supported by recent national strategies, such as the End of Life Care Strategy (United Kingdom, 2008), promote the early integration of specialist palliative care into the management of patients with incurable disease, irrespective of the diagnosis. The primary goal of the intensive cardiac care unit is to help patients survive acute threats to their lives. However, the suddenness and severity of illness, particularly when associated with an underlying cardiological diagnosis, often means that the provision of optimal specialist palliative care is challenging. This chapter addresses key issues relating to the provision of specialist palliative care in the challenging and complex environment of the intensive cardiac care unit, including symptom control, end of life care, decision making, and communication. The benefits of multidisciplinary working for effective quality improvement in patient care and best support for patients, families/carers, and staff are also addressed. The importance of interdisciplinary working is highlighted, and, by embedding the principles of holistic care into daily practice, the intensive cardiac care unit can ensure that patients and their families/carers receive the support they need in a timely manner from individuals who are well supported in what is often considered to be one of the most challenging medical environments.

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