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Hospital utilization and disposition among patients with malignant bowel obstruction: a population-based comparison of surgical to medical management.

  • Author(s): Bateni, Sarah B;
  • Gingrich, Alicia A;
  • Stewart, Susan L;
  • Meyers, Frederick J;
  • Bold, Richard J;
  • Canter, Robert J
  • et al.


Malignant bowel obstruction (MBO) is often a terminal event in end-stage cancer patients. The decision to intervene surgically is complex, given the risk of harm in patients with a limited lifespan. Therefore, we sought to compare clinically meaningful outcomes in MBO patients treated with surgical versus medical management using population-based data.


We performed a retrospective analysis of hospitalized patients with MBO from 2006 to 2010 using the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development dataset. Hospital-free days (HFDs) at 30-, 90-, and 180-days were calculated accounting for all hospitalization, emergency department visit, and skilled nursing facility lengths of stay. Adjusted regression models were used to compare HFDs, disposition, complications, in-hospital death, and survival for surgical versus medical MBO cohorts, using inverse probability of treatment weighting with propensity scores.


Of 4576 MBO patients, 3421 (74.8%) were treated medically and 1155 (25.2%) were treated surgically. Surgical patients had higher rates of complications (44.0% vs. 21.3%, p < 0.0001) and in-hospital death (9.5% vs. 3.9%, p < 0.0001) with lower rates of disposition to home (76.3% vs. 89.8%, p < 0.0001). Surgical patients had fewer 30- and 90-day HFDs compared to medical patients (p < 0.01). However, at 180-days, there were no differences in HFDs between treatment groups. There was no difference in overall survival between surgical and medical patients (median 6.5 vs. 6.4 months).


In this population-based analysis, medical management was associated with less hospital utilization at 30- and 90-days, fewer in-hospital deaths, and more frequent discharges to home. These data underscore the potential benefits of medical management for MBO patients at the end-of-life.

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