Introduction Death in childhood from cystic fibrosis (CF) is now an uncommon event in the UK. We wished to assess the circumstances surrounding deaths (and lung transplantation) in the modern era of CF care.
Methods A retrospective review was carried out pooling data from two large paediatric specialist CF units in London for the 10-year period 2000–2009 inclusive.
Results There were 11 deaths and eight children who had a lung transplant out of 1022 children cared for in this period. Median age of death was 14.2 years and transplant 13.0 years, with a female preponderance (82% deaths and 75% transplants). Apart from one child (forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) 69%), lung function indicated severe lung disease (median FEV1 33%, range 12%–69%). Values 5 years prior to death were not predictive (median FEV1 62%, range 32%–96%), and those 1 year prior were similar to the last recorded levels. Almost all (10/11) died in hospital and 5/11 (45%) were ventilated. Respiratory failure was the commonest mode of death (64%). Only four children (36%) were receiving palliative care, and in six cases (55%) care was withdrawn.
Conclusions The number of deaths in children with CF was small but often unpredictable, so active management was continued until late in the majority, reflected by the fact that almost all were in hospital, and more than half were ventilated. If death from respiratory failure is anticipated following a steady decline, palliative care should be instituted well in advance, with attention to appropriate end of life care.
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