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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 8  |  Page : 348-354

Pain management in the elderly at the end of life

1 Institute of Geriatrics and Gerontology, Pontifical Catholic University, Porto Alegre, Brazil
2 Post-Graduation Program in Medical Clinics and Health Sciences, School of Medicine, Pontifical Catholic University, Porto Alegre, Brazil

Correspondence Address:
Roberta Rigo Dalacorte
Rua Padre Chagas, 147 / 901 - Porto Alegre/RS
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 22171240

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Background: The treatment of older adults with pain is complex and affected by age-related changes in pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. Chronic pain encompasses a complex array of sensory-discriminatory, motivational-affective, and cognitive-evaluative components. Because of this complexity, both pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic approaches should be considered to treat pain. Aims: Given the large number of older persons with pain at the end of life and the few data about this issue, the objective of this article is to review the treatment of pain in this population. Patients and Methods: We searched The Cochrane Library, MEDLINE and LILACS from 1990 to 2011 and the references in retrieved manuscripts. The search terms were pain AND elderly AND end of life. Results: There are evidences of undertreatment among elderly people. The association of nonpharmacologic resources with the pharmacological treatment can help reduce the use of analgesics minimizing the side effects of long term medication. Pharmacological treatment is escalated in an orderly manner from non-opioid to weak opioid to strong opioid. Adjuvant drugs like anticonvulsants and antidepressants may be necessary. Conclusions: The sequential use of analgesics drugs and opioids are considered effective and relatively inexpensive for relieving pain, but no well designed specific studies in the elderly patient are available. There are not specific recommendations about the long-term use of complementary and alternative therapies and although their effectiveness remains unproven they should not be discouraged. Palliative sedation may be a valid palliative care option to relieve suffering in the imminently dying patient.

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