Anti-Secretory Agents


Transdermal Anticholinergics for the Treatment of "Death Rattle" and Excessive Secretions

Difficulty clearing upper airway secretions (death rattle) is a problem for half of all dying patients. Treatment often includes the use of anticholinergic drugs, such as scopolamine (also known as hyoscine) or atropine. Transdermal scopolamine has several indications for symptom control in patients with end-stage disease: control of excess salivary secretions, management of terminal secretions, and control of nausea.

Palliat Med. 2002 Sep;16(5):369-74
Using anti-muscarinic drugs in the management of death rattle: evidence-based guidelines for palliative care.
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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2002 Apr;23(4):310-7
Death rattle: prevalence, prevention and treatment.
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Prescrire Int. 2001 Aug;10(54):99-101
Scopolamine: new preparations. Reference treatment for death rattle.
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Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1990 Oct;103(4):615-8
Reduction of salivary flow with transdermal scopolamine: a four-year experience.
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Drooling is a serious social handicap experienced by some neurologically impaired patients. No one method has been identified to control drooling for all patients, however, anticholinergic drugs have been utilized. In the following case study, transdermal scopolamine was found to be effective for controlling drooling in a traumatic brain-injured patient for whom more conservative methods failed. From a baseline saliva flow rate, saliva flow decreased up to 59%. No significant side effects were observed with treatment, and the decrease in drooling was maintained for a 4-month period. Although transdermal scopolamine may represent one acceptable facet of long-term treatment, it must be stressed that efficacy is variable across patient populations and that treatment approaches must be individualized.

Am J Phys Med Rehabil. 1991 Aug;70(4):220-2
The use of transdermal scopolamine to control drooling. A case report.
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