REVIEW
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[Using psychostimulants in end-of-life patients with hypoactive delirium and cognitive disorders: A literature review].

OBJECTIVE: To review the research about psychostimulant effects on cognitive functions in end-of-life patients diagnosed with hypoactive delirium or cognitive disorders.

METHOD: The MEDLINE (1966-March 2008), Embase (1974-March 2008), PsycINFO (1806-March 2008), IPA (1970-March 2008), CINAHL (1982-March 2008), ISI Web of Science (1945-March 2008), Current Contents (March 2007-March 2008), Access Medicine (2001-March 2008), and ProQuest Dissertations & Theses (1980-March 2008) databases were searched with keywords related to delirium, cognition, psychostimulants, and palliative care for French or English articles in a dementia-free and hyperactive delirium-free end-of-life population. Cognitive functions had to be assessed before and after initiation of the psychostimulant treatment. Moreover, treatment had to be initiated after the onset of cognitive impairments.

RESULTS: A total of 173 studies were screened. Five studies on methylphenidate and 1 study on caffeine met inclusion criteria and were included in this review. Two studies were case reports, 2 were open-label trials, and 2 were double-blind, crossover randomized placebo-controlled trials. Three studies were conducted with hypoactive delirium patients and all studies were conducted in an advanced cancer patient population.

CONCLUSIONS: The reviewed studies support the use of methylphenidate to improve end-of-life patient cognitive functions, particularly in the case of hypoactive delirium. Caffeine seems to have beneficial effects on psychomotor activity. Further well-designed studies are needed to consolidate these findings.

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