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Referrals to a perinatal specialist palliative care consult service in Ireland, 2012–2015
  1. Des L McMahon1,
  2. Marie Twomey2,
  3. Maeve O’Reilly2,
  4. Mary Devins2,3
  1. 1 Academic Department of Palliative Medicine, Education and Research Centre, Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services, Dublin, Ireland
  2. 2 Paediatric Palliative Medicine, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin, Ireland
  3. 3 Palliative Medicine, Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland
  1. Correspondence to Dr Des L McMahon, Academic Department of Palliative Medicine, Education and Research Centre, Our Lady’s Hospice and Care, Services, Harold’s Cross, Dublin 6W, D6W EV82, Ireland; dmcmahon{at}


Objective To analyse the referral patterns of perinatal patients referred to a specialist palliative care service (SPCS), their demographics, diagnoses, duration of illness, place of death and symptom profile.

Design A retrospective chart review of all perinatal referrals over a 4-year period to the end of 2015.

Setting A consultant-led paediatric SPCS at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin, and the Coombe Women & Infants University Hospital, Dublin.

Results 83 perinatal referrals were received in a 4-year period. Chromosomal abnormalities accounted for 35% of diagnoses, congenital heart disease 25%, complex neurological abnormalities 11% and renal agenesis 4%. 22 referrals (26.5%) were made antenatally, with 61 (73.5%) postnatally. Of the postnatal referrals, 27 (44%) were asymptomatic on referral. An opioid medication was recommended (regularly or as required) in 46 cases. Symptom control was achieved without dose titration in 43 of these cases (93%). Of 47 deaths in this group referred postnatally, 22 of these (47%) died at home with support from community teams. Discharge home for best supportive care required complex interagency communication and cooperation.

Conclusions Perinatal palliative care requires effective multidisciplinary work, whether delivered in the inpatient setting or in the community. With appropriate support, end-of-life care can be delivered in the community.

  • palliative care
  • neonatology

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  • Contributors All authors contributed equally to this paper.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Ethics approval Approval to undertake this retrospective review was obtained from the Chair of the Ethics Committee of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin, Dublin, Ireland.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement There are no additional unpublished data from this study. The data can be accessed from the first named author on request.