Effects of Palliative Care for Progressive Neurologic Diseases: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Published:December 05, 2022DOI:



      To determine the association of palliative care for progressive neurologic diseases with patient- and caregiver-centered outcomes.


      Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies, including pilot studies.

      Setting and Participants

      Adults with progressive neurologic diseases (dementia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, motor neuron disease, multiple system atrophy, and progressive supranuclear palsy) and their caregivers.


      MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL PLUS, Cochrane CENTRAL, and PubMed were searched from inception to September 2021. Two reviewers independently screened studies, extracted data, and assessed risk of bias using the Cochrane risk of bias tools. Narrative synthesis was conducted. Patient quality of life (QoL), symptom burden, caregiver burden, and satisfaction with care were meta-analyzed using a random-effects model.


      Fifteen trials provided data on 3431 patients (mean age, 73.9 years). Compared with usual care, palliative care was statistically significantly associated with lower symptom burden [standardized mean difference (SMD), −0.34 (95% Cl, −0.59 to −0.09)] and higher caregiver satisfaction [SMD, 0.41 (95% Cl, 0.12 to 0.71)] and patient satisfaction [SMD, 0.43 (95% Cl, −0.01 to 0.87)]. However, the associations were not significant after excluding studies with high risk of bias. Insignificant associations of palliative care with caregiver burden [SMD, −0.09 (95% Cl, −0.21 to 0.03)] and patient QoL [SMD, 0.19 (95% Cl, −0.07 to 0.44)] were observed.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Palliative care is likely to improve symptom burden and satisfaction with care among patients with progressive neurologic diseases and their caregivers, while its effects on QoL and caregiver burden remains inconclusive. Specific intervention components including interdisciplinary team, palliative care physicians, home visits, and spiritual care appeared to be associated with increased effects on improving palliative outcomes. More rigorous designed studies are warranted to examine the effects of neuropalliative care, effective intervention components, optimal timing, and symptom triggers of palliative care referrals.


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