Complementary therapy in palliative care: A synthesis of qualitative and quantitative systematic reviews

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This episode features Dr Bridget Candy (Marie Curie Palliative Care Research Department, Division of Psychiatry, University College London, London, UK). A systematic review of effectiveness data on aromatherapy, massage and reflexology in palliative care drew inconclusive conclusions. A systematic review of qualitative evidences shows palliative care patients highly value complementary therapy. None of the aromatherapy, massage or reflexology trials included all key delivery components as outlined by palliative care patients. The five quality of life scales used in the trials failed to capture the range of perceived benefits from the complementary therapies and many included inappropriate or redundant items. This novel but simple method of integrating synthesised qualitative and quantitative reviews through matrices allows the reasons for inconclusive trial evidence to be explored. This synthesis has highlighted a need for fully powered, robust trials of aromatherapy, massage and reflexology that are conducted with the key components described by people with palliative care needs. Outcome measures should be appropriate to capture the range of potential benefits highlighted by people with palliative needs. In the meantime, complementary therapies should continue to be offered as part of palliative care.

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