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Death rattle


Clinical bottom line

Death rattle is found in about 1 dying patient in 4. It is highly predictive of death within 48 hours.

Death rattle is the noise caused by oscillatory movements of secretions in the upper airways with inspiration and expiration in dying patients.


H Wildiers, J Menten. Death rattle: prevalence, prevention and treatment. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 2002 23: 310-317.


This was a study of 107 consecutive dying patients in a palliative care unit in Belgium from a retrospective analysis of 112 patients. The average age of patients was about 70 years.


Twenty five patients had a death rattle; 19/25 died within 48 hours of onset.


There are some useful references and comments about treating death rattle in this paper.