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Timing of Urgent Inpatient Palliative Radiation Therapy.



Urgent indications for palliative radiation therapy (RT) include malignant spinal cord compression, symptomatic brain metastases, pain, airway obstruction, and bleeding. Data on the timing of palliative RT in the inpatient setting are limited. We report our experience with inpatient palliative RT at a tertiary academic center and evaluate the effect of a dedicated inpatient palliative RT nurse practitioner (NP) on treatment timelines.

Methods and materials

We performed a retrospective, single-institution review of 219 inpatients consulted for RT to sites of metastatic disease between May 2012 and May 2018. We compared time-to-treatment intervals before and after integrating an NP for palliative RT in August 2017.


The median age of the 219 patients receiving RT was 61 years (interquartile range [IQR], 51-69 years). The most frequent indications were symptomatic brain metastases (73 patients [33%]), pain (61 patients [28%]), and cord/cauda compression (48 patients [22%]). The median time from consultation request to consult was 1 day (IQR, 0-2 days), and the median time from consultation request to first RT fraction was 3 days (IQR, 2-6 days). The median time from consultation request to RT was shorter for cord compression (2 [IQR, 1-4] days) than for pain (5 [IQR, 2-7] days) (P = .001) or symptomatic brain metastases (3 [IQR, 1-6] days; P = .037). With an NP, patients were more likely to undergo same-day consultation and simulation (75% vs 60%; P = .045), which was associated with shorter median duration from consultation to initiation of RT (1 [IQR, 0-3] days vs 4 [IQR, 2-7] days; P <.001). After the integration of an NP for palliative RT, patients had a higher median Karnofsky Performance Score (70 [IQR, 60-80] vs 50 [IQR, 40-60]; P < .001) and were more likely to complete their prescribed RT course (93% vs 82%; P = .05).


Time from consultation request to RT is necessarily short for urgent inpatient palliative RT. Advanced practice providers may facilitate and potentially expedite treatment, with significantly shorter times to treatment among patients who undergo same-day consultation and simulation.

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