Cancer-related Emergency Department Visits: Comparing Characteristics and Outcomes
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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Cancer-related Emergency Department Visits: Comparing Characteristics and Outcomes


Introduction: There is increasing appreciation of the challenges of providing safe and appropriate care to cancer patients in the emergency department (ED). Our goal here was to assess which patient characteristics are associated with more frequent ED revisits.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of all ED visits in California during the 2016 calendar year using data from the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development. We defined revisits as a return visit to an ED within seven days of the index visit. For both index and return visits, we assessed various patient characteristics, including age, cancer type, medical comorbidities, and ED disposition.

Results: Among 12.9 million ED visits, we identified 73,465 adult cancer patients comprising 103,523 visits that met our inclusion criteria. Cancer patients had a 7-day revisit rate of 17.9% vs 13.2% for non-cancer patients. Cancer patients had a higher rate of admission upon 7-day revisit (36.7% vs 15.6%). Patients with cancers of the small intestine, stomach, and pancreas had the highest rate of 7-day revisits (22-24%). Cancer patients younger than 65 had a higher 7-day revisit rate than the elderly (20.0% vs 16.2%).

Conclusion: In a review of all cancer-related ED visits in the state of California, we found a variety of characteristics associated with a higher rate of 7-day ED revisits. Our goal in this study was to inform future research to identify interventions on the index visit that may improve patient outcomes.

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