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Too much, too late: Aggressive measures and the timing of end of life care discussions in women with gynecologic malignancies



This study describes the patterns of end of life (EOL) discussions and their impact on the use of aggressive measures in women with terminal gynecologic malignancies at a single institution.


An IRB-approved retrospective chart review identified 136 patients who died of gynecologic cancer between 2010 and 2012 with at least one interaction with their oncologists in the last 6 months of life. Aggressive measures were defined as chemotherapy within the last 14 days of life, emergency department (ED) visits, hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions within the last 30 days of life, and inpatient deaths. The frequency and timing of EOL conversations were recorded. Utilization of hospice care was also described.


In the last 30 days of life, 54 (40%) patients were evaluated in the ED, 67 (49%) were admitted into hospital, and 16 (12%) were admitted to the ICU. Thirteen patients (10%) had chemotherapy in the last 14 days of life. Ninety-seven (71%) patients had a documented EOL conversation, eighteen (19%) as outpatients, and 79 (81%) as inpatients. Thirty (22%) patients died in the hospital. At the time of death, 55 (40%) patients were enrolled in outpatient hospice care. The mean amount of time in hospice was 28 days.


End of life care discussions rarely occurred in the outpatient setting or >30 days before death. Inpatient encounters led to discussions about hospice and code status. Evaluation in the ED frequently resulted in escalation of care. Earlier EOL care discussions resulted in less aggressive measures.

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