PURPOSE: Patients with hematological malignancies (HM) have more unpredictable disease trajectories compared to patients with advanced solid tumors (STs) and miss opportunities for a palliative care approach. They often undergo intensive disease-directed treatments until the end of life with frequent emergency department (ED) visits and in-hospital deaths. Insight into end-of-life trajectories and quality of end-of-life care can support arranging appropriate care according to patients' wishes.
METHOD: Mortality follow-back study to compare of end-of-life trajectories of HM and ST patients who died <3 months after their ED visit. Five indicators based on Earle et al. for quality of end-of-life care were assessed: intensive anticancer treatment <3 months, ED visits <6 months, in-hospital death, death in the intensive care unit (ICU), and in-hospice death.
RESULTS: We included 78 HM patients and 420 ST patients, with a median age of 63 years; 35% had Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status 3-4. At the ED, common symptoms were dyspnea (22%), pain (18%), and fever (11%). After ED visit, 91% of HM patients versus 76% of ST patients were hospitalized (P = .001). Median survival was 17 days (95% confidence interval [CI]: 15-19): 15 days in HM patients (95% CI: 10-20) versus 18 days in ST patients (95% CI: 15-21), P = .028. Compared to ST patients, HM patients more often died in hospital (68% vs 30%, P < .0001) and in the ICU or ED (30% vs 3%, P < .0001).
CONCLUSION: Because end-of-life care is more aggressive in HM patients compared to ST patients, a proactive integrated care approach with early start of palliative care alongside curative care is warranted. Timely discussions with patients and family about advance care planning and end-of-life choices can avoid inappropriate care at the end of life.
Background: The surprise question (SQ), “Would I be surprised if this patient died within one year?”, is a simple instrument to identify patients with palliative care needs. The SQ-performance has not been evaluated in patients with advanced cancer visiting the emergency department (ED).
Objective: To evaluate SQ's test characteristics and predictive value in patients with advanced cancer visiting the ED.
Design: Observational cohort study.
Setting: Patients >18 years with advanced cancer in the palliative phase visiting the ED of an academic medical center.
Methods: Attending physicians answered the SQ (not surprised [NS] or surprised [S]) and estimated Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG)-performance status. Disease, visit, and follow-up characteristics were retrospectively collected from charts. SQ's sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV), and Harrell's c-index were calculated. Prognostic values of SQ and other variables were assessed by using Cox proportional hazards models.
Results: Two-hundred-and-forty-five patients were included (203 NS [83%] and 42 S [17%]), median age 62 years, 48% male. Follow-up on overall survival was updated until February 2019. At ED entry, NS-patients had worse ECOG-performance and more symptoms. At study closure, 233 patients had died (95%). Median survival was three months for NS-patients (interquartile [IQ]-range: 1–8); nine months for S-patients (IQ-range: 3–28) (p < 0.0001). SQ-performance for one-year mortality: sensitivity 89%, specificity 40%, PPV 85%, NPV 50%, c-index 0.56, and hazard ratio 2.1 for approaching death. ECOG 3–4 predicted death in NS-patients; addition to the SQ improved c-index (0.65); sensitivity (40%), specificity (92%), PPV (95%), and NPV (29%).
Conclusions: At the ED, the SQ plus ECOG 3–4 helps identifying patients with advanced cancer and a limited life expectancy. Its use supports initiating appropriate care related to urgency of palliative care needs.
Purpose: Patients with advanced cancer commonly visit the emergency department (ED) during the last 3 months of life. Identification of these patients and their palliative care needs help initiating appropriate care according to patients’ wishes. Our objective was to provide insight into ED visits of advanced cancer patients at the end of life.
Methods: Adult palliative patients with solid tumours who died < 3 months after their ED visit were included (2011–2014). Patients, ED visits, and follow-up were described. Factors associated with approaching death were assessed using Cox proportional hazards models.
Results: Four hundred twenty patients were included, 54.5% was male, median age 63 years. A total of 54.6% was on systemic anti-cancer treatments and 10.5% received home care = 1 per day. ED visits were initiated by patients and family in 34.0% and 51.9% occurred during out-of-office hours. Dyspnoea (21.0%) or pain (18.6%) were most reported symptoms. Before the ED visit, limitations on life-sustaining treatments were discussed in 33.8%, during or after the ED visit in 70.7%. Median stay at the ED was 3:29 h (range 00:12–18:01 h), and 319 (76.0%) were hospitalized. Median survival was 18 days (IQ range 7–41). One hundred four (24.8%) died within 7 days after the ED visit, of which 71.2% in-hospital. Factors associated with approaching death were lung cancer, neurologic deterioration, dyspnoea, hypercalcemia, and jaundice.
Conclusion: ED visits of advanced cancer patients often lead to hospitalization and in-hospital deaths. Timely recognition of patients with limited life expectancies and urgent palliative care needs, and awareness among ED staff of the potential of ED-initiated palliative care may improve the end-of-life trajectory of these patients.