CONTEXT: Although specialized pediatric palliative care (SPPC) teams increasingly provide home-based care, the evidence of its impact has not yet been systematically evaluated.
OBJECTIVES: To examine the impact of home-based SPPC in children and adolescents with life-limiting conditions, regarding place of death, quality of life and symptom burden.
METHODS: We searched Medline, EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, Web of Science and Scopus for studies comparing children and adolescents with life-limiting conditions receiving home-based SPPC with children and adolescents not receiving home-based SPPC, or studies reporting before-and-after measurements. We included studies that reported on place of death, quality of life and/or symptoms. Two authors independently screened the articles, extracted data, and assessed quality. Results were synthesized as a systematic narrative synthesis and meta-analysis, using a random-effects model.
RESULTS: We included five studies, which reported on 392 children and adolescents. Meta-analysis showed that receiving home-based SPPC was associated with a more than fourfold increased likelihood of home death (risk ratio 4.64, 95% confidence interval 3.06-7.04; 3 studies; n=296). Most studies reported improved quality of life and reduced symptom burden. The included studies were of low to moderate quality with a high risk of bias.
CONCLUSION: This systematic review suggests that home-based SPPC is associated with increased likelihood of home death, and might be associated with improved quality of life and reduced symptom burden. The small number of studies and an overall high risk of bias, however, makes the overall strength of evidence low.