When they stop drinking—examining end-of-life hydration practices and death rattle occurrence

Daniel Dayan, Sasson Menahem, Pesach Shvartzman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To characterize the practice of subcutaneous hydration provision in the Beer-Sheva home care hospice unit. We also explore the potential connection between the provision of subcutaneous hydration and the incidence of death rattle. Methods: This was a prospective observational study involving 120 hospice patients. During the 6 days before death, hospice staff recorded whether or not fluids were administered orally and/or subcutaneously; the duration, timing, and quantity of fluid administration; the incidence, timing, and duration of death rattle; and whether medications that can affect death rattle were given. Result: Fifty-three percent of the patients received subcutaneous hydration. The mean daily volume administered in the hydration group was 434 ml. There was a significant association between the duration of treatment in the hospice unit and provision of subcutaneous hydration (mean of 51 days in hydration group vs. 31 days in non-hydration group, p = 0.03). Although not statistically significant, males were more likely to receive subcutaneous hydration than females (62% of males vs. 46% of females, p = 0.09). There was a higher incidence of death rattle in men compared to women (54.7% in men vs. 32.8% in women, p = 0.025). A statistically significant association between death rattle and the provision of subcutaneous hydration wasn’t demonstrated. Conclusion: The decision of whether to provide subcutaneous hydration is individualized taking into consideration the values of the patients and their families. The provision of 500 ml per day of subcutaneous saline during the last 6 days of life does not significantly increase the incidence of death rattle.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-185
Number of pages7
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Death rattle
  • End of life
  • Subcutaneous hydration
  • Terminal secretions


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