BACKGROUND: Although guidelines recommend palliative care for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, there is little evidence for the effectiveness of palliative care interventions for this patient group specifically.
AIM: To describe the characteristics of palliative care interventions for patients with COPD and their informal caregivers and review the available evidence on effectiveness and implementation outcomes.
DESIGN: Systematic review and narrative synthesis (PROSPERO CRD42017079962).
DATA SOURCES: Seven databases were searched for articles reporting on multi-component palliative care interventions for study populations containing ⩾30% patients with COPD. Quantitative as well as qualitative and mixed-method studies were included. Intervention characteristics, effect outcomes, implementation outcomes and barriers and facilitators for successful implementation were extracted and synthesized qualitatively.
RESULTS: Thirty-one articles reporting on twenty unique interventions were included. Only four interventions (20%) were evaluated in an adequately powered controlled trial. Most interventions comprised of longitudinal palliative care, including care coordination and comprehensive needs assessments. Results on effectiveness were mixed and inconclusive. The feasibility level varied and was context-dependent. Acceptability of the interventions was high; having someone to call for support and education about breathlessness were most valued characteristics. Most frequently named barriers were uncertainty about the timing of referral due to the unpredictable disease trajectory (referrers), time availability (providers) and accessibility (patients).
CONCLUSION: Little high-quality evidence is yet available on the effectiveness and implementation of palliative care interventions for patients with COPD. There is a need for well-conducted effectiveness studies and adequate process evaluations using standardized methodologies to create higher-level evidence and inform successful implementation.