Care of the Dying: Is Pain Control Compromised or Enhanced by Continuation of the Fentanyl Transdermal Patch in the Dying Phase?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  • Authors:
  • John Ellershaw
  • Carol Kinder
  • Judith Aldridge
  • Mark Allison
  • Jennifer C. Smith


The introduction of fentanyl transdermal patches has led to concern and confusion regarding the management of pain control in the dying phase. Data were collected retrospectively from 94 dying patients. Two groups were identified—patients treated with fentanyl transdermal patch who remained on the patch in the dying phase and patients on oral morphine who converted to a 24-hour subcutaneous infusion of diamorphine via a syringe driver in the dying phase. Both the fentanyl group and the diamorphine group had good pain control in the last 48 hours of life. During the last 48 hours of life, the proportion of patients with controlled pain was statistically significant in favor of the fentanyl group in 2 of the 12 observations undertaken, in particular whether the fentanyl transdermal patch should be continued or discontinued. Patients in the fentanyl group received fewer ‘as required’ opioid doses compared to patients in the diamorphine group, although the difference was statistically significant only for the last day of life. This study showed that pain control was not compromised in the dying phase with continued use of the fentanyl patch.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-403
JournalJournal of Pain and Symptom Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2002