Can psychiatric intervention improve major depression in very near end-of-life cancer patients?

Ken Shimizu, Tatsuo Akechi, Masaya Shimamoto, Masako Okamura, Tomohito Nakano, Tadashi Murakami, Tatsuhiko Ito, Akira Oba, Maiko Fujimori, Nobuya Akizuki, Masatoshi Inagaki, Yosuke Uchitomi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVE: Although depression is a prevalent and burdensome psychiatric problem in end-of-life cancer patients, little is known about its susceptibility to treatment, especially when patients reach very close to the end of life. This study was conducted to evaluate response rate of that end-of-life depression to psychiatric intervention and to assess the feasibility of conventional evidence-based pharmacological therapy for depression. METHODS: The medical records of 20 patients who were referred to the psychiatry division for major depressive disorder and died within 3 months after the referral were reviewed. The Clinical Global Impression-Improvement (CGI-I) Scale was used for each case, and responders were defined as patients whose scores were much or very much improved. All pharmacological treatments were extracted, and the doses of the antidepressant prescribed were compared to their evidence-based-defined therapeutic doses. RESULTS: Of the 20 patients, seven were responders, but no response was achieved when the survival time was less than 3 weeks. Most patients were treated with antidepressants, but the doses prescribed were far less than the defined doses, especially the doses of the tricyclic antidepreSsants (TCAs). SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: These results suggested that patients' survival time largely determines susceptibility to psychiatric treatment, and it is hard to achieve response in patients whose survival time was less than about 1 month. Implementation of conventional evidence-based pharmacological treatment is difficult, especially with TCAs, and various antidepressants, which can be administrated by other routes, are needed when oral intake is impossible.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-9
Number of pages7
JournalPalliative & supportive care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Nursing(all)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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