Consultation-liaison psychiatry in an Australian oncology unit

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Objective: To provide an overview of the work of a consultation-liaison (C-L) psychiatry service to an oncology unit in a university affiliated teaching hospital, with the aid of a comprehensive clinical database. Method: The MICROCARES prospective clinical database system was used to record data on all oncology inpatients referred to C-L psychiatry, and the hospital clinical database was used to compare referred inpatients with all oncology inpatients. Results: Two hundred and seventy-one referrals were made in the 3 years from 1991 to 1993, a referral rate of 10.4%. The referred patients were younger but there was no bias in sex and marital status. The mean length of stay was twice that for all other oncology admissions, day cases excluded. The most frequent reasons for referral were coping problems, depression, terminal illness issues and anxiety. The most common psychiatric diagnoses were Systemic Family Problems (V codes, 24%), Mood Disorders (23%), Adjustment Disorders (16%) and Organic Mental Disorders (10%). Management involved family conferences in half of the patients and antidepressant medication in one-quarter. Concordance with pharmacological recommendations was 98%. Existential issues and family-centred care are discussed. Conclusions: Both individual and family-centred care is required in an oncology service; a dedicated liaison attachment offers considerable staff support. Psycho-oncology is underdeveloped in Australia compared to many overseas services; there is scope for substantial growth in preventive and supportive work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-404
Number of pages8
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1996

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