The patients on ventilators also needed much less morphine.
Dr. Neil Schachter, a professor of pulmonary medicine, said the findings could help doctors make better decisions. "There now appears to be an alternative way of making what is really a very horrible situation more comfortable for the person who is dying," said Schachter, medical director of the respiratory care department at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City.
The ventilator treatment appears to reduce the sensation of breathlessness in the patients. That, he said, could mean less need for sedation.
"By doing it in this way, you're not sedating them, making them go to sleep," he said. "They can presumably have a better interaction with their family in these last moments."
In another study to be released at the conference Tuesday, Veterans Administration-funded researchers report that so-called "pulmonary rehabilitation" -- which includes counseling and instruction in lung exercises -- provides less relief for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease if given late in the course of their disease.
The finding, "suggests that treatments for end-stage patients with COPD may still be effective and introducing exercise training sooner in the course of their disease results in more improvement," lead researcher Bonnie Steele, a respiratory clinical nurse specialist at the VA Puget Sound Health Care System in Seattle, said in a statement.
Learn more about lung cancer from the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: Stefano Nava, M.D., chief, respiratory critical care unit, Istituto Scientifico di Pavia, Pavia, Ital
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