Analysis of Diagnoses, Symptoms, Medications, and Admissions Among Patients With Cancer Presenting to Emergency Departments.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

JAMA Netw Open


Importance: Better understanding of the emergency care needs of patients with cancer will inform outpatient and emergency department (ED) management.

Objective: To provide a benchmark description of patients who present to the ED with active cancer.

Design, Setting, and Participants: This multicenter prospective cohort study included 18 EDs affiliated with the Comprehensive Oncologic Emergencies Research Network (CONCERN). Of 1564 eligible patients, 1075 adults with active cancer were included from February 1, 2016, through January 30, 2017. Data were analyzed from February 1 through August 1, 2018.

Main Outcomes and Measures: The proportion of patients reporting symptoms (eg, pain, nausea) before and during the ED visit, ED and outpatient medications, most common diagnoses, and suspected infection as indicated by ED antibiotic administration. The proportions observed, admitted, and with a hospital length of stay (LOS) of no more than 2 days were identified.

Results: Of 1075 participants, mean (SD) age was 62 (14) years, and 51.8% were female. Seven hundred ninety-four participants (73.9%; 95% CI, 71.1%-76.5%) had undergone cancer treatment in the preceding 30 days; 674 (62.7%; 95% CI, 59.7%-65.6%) had advanced or metastatic cancer; and 505 (47.0%; 95% CI, 43.9%-50.0%) were 65 years or older. The 5 most common ED diagnoses were symptom related. Of all participants, 82 (7.6%; 95% CI, 6.1%-9.4%) were placed in observation and 615 (57.2%; 95% CI, 54.2%-60.2%) were admitted; 154 of 615 admissions (25.0%; 95% CI, 21.7%-28.7%) had an LOS of 2 days or less (median, 3 days; interquartile range, 2-6 days). Pain during the ED visit was present in 668 patients (62.1%; 95% CI, 59.2%-65.0%; mean [SD] pain score, 6.4 [2.6] of 10.0) and in 776 (72.2%) during the prior week. Opioids were administered in the ED to 228 of 386 patients (59.1%; 95% CI, 18.8%-23.8%) with moderate to severe ED pain. Outpatient opioids were prescribed to 368 patients (47.4%; 95% CI, 3.14%-37.2%) of those with pre-ED pain, including 244 of 428 (57.0%; 95% CI, 52.2%-61.8%) who reported quite a bit or very much pain. Nausea in the ED was present in 336 (31.3%; 95% CI, 28.5%-34.1%); of these, 160 (47.6%; 95% CI, 12.8%-17.1%) received antiemetics in the ED. Antibiotics were administered in the ED to 285 patients (26.5%; 95% CI, 23.9%-29.2%). Of these, 209 patients (73.3%; 95% CI, 17.1%-21.9%) were admitted compared with 427 of 790 (54.1%; 95% CI, 50.5%-57.6%) not receiving antibiotics.

Conclusions and Relevance: This initial prospective, multicenter study profiling patients with cancer who were treated in the ED identifies common characteristics in this patient population and suggests opportunities to optimize care before, during, and after the ED visit. Improvement requires collaboration between specialists and emergency physicians optimizing ED use, improving symptom control, avoiding unnecessary hospitalizations, and appropriately stratifying risk to ensure safe ED treatment and disposition of patients with cancer.





First Page


Last Page






PubMed ID