Symptoms in patients receiving palliative care: A study on patient-physician encounters in general practice

Sander Borgsteede, Luc Deliens, Barry Beentjes, François Schellevis, Wim A.B. Stalman, Jacques Th M. Van Eijk, Gerrit Van der Wal

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Most people with an incurable disease prefer to stay and die at home, cared for by their general practitioner (GP). This paper aims at describing the prevalence of symptoms in patients receiving palliative care at home. Within the framework of a nation wide survey of general practice in the Netherlands, GPs received a questionnaire for all patients who died within the 1-year survey period to determine whether patients received palliative care (n = 2194). The response rate was 73% (n = 1608), and 38% of these patients received palliative care until death. Information regarding encounters during the last 3 months of life was derived from the records kept by the GPs. Digestive symptoms (59%) and pain (56%) were the most prevalent. The total number of symptoms per patient was higher in cancer patients (11.99) than in non-cancer patients (7.62). Not reported in previous studies were musculoskeletal symptoms (20%) and chronic ulcer (18%). Concluding, this showed that Dutch GPs encounter a diversity and wide range of symptoms in palliative care. To face these complex challenges in patients receiving palliative care at home, GPs have to be trained as well as supported by specialized palliative care consultants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-423
Number of pages7
JournalPalliative medicine
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2007


  • Cross-sectional study
  • Epidemiology
  • General practice
  • Palliative care
  • Patients
  • Symptons

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