"More life and more days"-patient and care characteristics in a specialized acute pediatric palliative care inpatient unit.

Stoesslein, Sophie; Gramm, Julia D; Bender, Hans-Ulrich; Müller, Petra; Rabenhorst, Dorothee; Borasio, Gian Domenico; Führer, Monika (2023). "More life and more days"-patient and care characteristics in a specialized acute pediatric palliative care inpatient unit. European journal of pediatrics, 182(4), pp. 1847-1855. 10.1007/s00431-023-04813-8

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Only a few acute hospital inpatient units dedicated to pediatric palliative care (PPC) patients exist today. Clinical data on the patients and care provided at specialized acute PPC inpatient units (PPCUs) are scarce. This study aims at describing patient and care characteristics on our PPCU to learn about the complexity and relevance of inpatient PPC. A retrospective chart analysis was performed on the 8-bed PPCU of the Center for Pediatric Palliative Care of the Munich University Hospital, including demographic, clinical, and treatment characteristics (487 consecutive cases; 201 individual patients; 2016-2020). Data were analyzed descriptively; the chi-square test was used for comparisons. Patients' age (1-35.5 years, median: 4.8 years) and length of stay (1-186 days, median 11 days) varied widely. Thirty-eight percent of patients were admitted repeatedly (range 2-20 times). Most patients suffered from neurological diseases (38%) or congenital abnormalities (34%); oncological diseases were rare (7%). Patients' predominant acute symptoms were dyspnea (61%), pain (54%), and gastrointestinal symptoms (46%). Twenty percent of patients suffered from > 6 acute symptoms, 30% had respiratory support incl. invasive ventilation, 71% had a feeding tube, and 40% had full resuscitation code. In 78% of cases, patients were discharged home; 11% died on the unit.


This study shows the heterogeneity, high symptom burden, and medical complexity of the patients on the PPCU. The high dependency on life-sustaining medical technology points to the parallelism of life-prolonging and palliative treatments that is typical for PPC. Specialized PPCUs need to offer care at the intermediate care level in order to respond to the needs of patients and families.


• Pediatric patients in outpatient PPC or hospices present with a variety of clinical syndromes and different levels of complexity and care intensity. • There are many children with life-limiting conditions (LLC) in hospitals, but specialized PPC hospital units for these patients are rare and poorly described.


• Patients on a specialized PPC hospital unit show a high symptom burden and a high level of medical complexity, including dependency on medical technology and frequent full resuscitation code. • The PPC unit is mainly a place for pain and symptom management as well as crisis intervention, and needs to be able to offer treatment at the intermediate care level.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Gynaecology, Paediatrics and Endocrinology (DFKE) > Clinic of Paediatric Medicine

UniBE Contributor:

Bender, Hans-Ulrich


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health






Pubmed Import

Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2023 15:01

Last Modified:

10 May 2023 00:13

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Hospital units Inpatient Palliative care Pediatrics Specialized pediatric palliative care





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