Caution if hepatic impairment

I was editing and reposting old entries from the old server, and ran across a post that reminded me of something I'd tried to forget. I had a patient in the ICU, barely holding on to life, with diffusely metastatic cancer, suffering not only from all the complications of the cancer, but all the side effects of the chemotherapy, with cardiomyopathy, neutropenia, anemia, and a host of other terrible side effects.

Even with inotropes [drugs that make the heart beat stronger] and pressors [drugs to increase blood pressure], her systolic pressure was a laughable 60 mmHg. She was having end organ ischemia, and her liver was failing. Her AST and ALT were in the 1000-1500 range. Her renal function was non-existent.

And as a result, we stopped all meds that were toxic to the kidneys and liver. That included her prozac. And every morning that she was conscious, she begged me for her prozac, and I had to tell her that her liver couldn't take it. Her organs weren't working. But she would beg me to give it to her.

Eventually, my attending started the prozac again, despite the miserable state of her liver. 'Ifinding, why not give her the prozac? With everything else going wrong, why not let her have this?' And I felt real guilt. I had been trying to protect this patient from the possible toxic buildup of the drug, but I had taken away the only thing that had made her life bearable. I was worse than the chemo.

And I learned then that the compassionate choice is not always the most medically appropriate, but far easier on the soul.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Smart attending.

I'm a veterinarian in private practice, and this was one of the most important lessons I learned early in my career.

Sometimes the humane choice becomes clear if one asks "just what are we trying to accomplish here?".