Dying cancer patient visits to emergency departments can be avoided

Mar 15, 2010

Many visits by dying cancer patients to the emergency department can be avoided with effective palliative care, states an article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ). In Ontario, about 40% of cancer patients visit the emergency department in the last 2 weeks of life.

A study was conducted to examine how often and why people dying of cancer visit the emergency department near the end of life. These visits are an ordeal since wait times are long and uncomfortable. They are also disruptive, distressing and exhausting for patients and their families. Emergency room visits at the end of life are considered an indicator of poor quality care for cancer patients.

"Patients who are near death should have their symptoms controlled and cared for in a setting of their choice, instead of on an emergency basis," write Dr. Lisa Barbera, Odette Cancer Centre (Toronto, Ontario) and coauthors. "While some people have unexpected urgent medical problems that need an emergency department visit, the rest of the visits are likely avoidable."

In Ontario, 91 561 patients died of cancer between 2002 and 2005 and were included in this study. In the last six months of life, 76 759 patients had 194 017 visits to the emergency department and 31 076 patients had 36 600 visits to the emergency department in the last two weeks of life.

, breathing difficulties, pneumonia, malaise and fatigue and fluid in the chest were the most common reasons for visits to the emergency department both in the last six months and two weeks of life. Lung cancer was the most common primary cancer.

"Understanding why patients visit the near the end of life offers insight into the nature of the problems they experience and provides direction for possible interventions," write the authors. "With comprehensive and coordinated palliative care, individuals could be managed in the clinic, at home and in palliative care units or residential hospices without the need for an emergency visit. The majority of the reasons for visits are within the scope of palliative care expertise."

Explore further: Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Doctors' orders lost in translation

Jul 17, 2008

When patients are discharged from the emergency department, their recovery depends on carefully following the doctors' instructions for their post care at home. Yet a vast majority of patients don't fully understand what ...

Emergency room waits getting longer

Jan 15, 2008

Emergency room wait times in the United States are getting longer, especially for the severely ill, medical researchers said Tuesday.

9 patients made nearly 2,700 ER visits in Texas

Apr 01, 2009

(AP) -- Just nine people accounted for nearly 2,700 of the emergency room visits in the Austin area during the past six years at a cost of $3 million to taxpayers and others, according to a report. The patients went to hospital ...

UCSF study: ER myths exploded

Apr 04, 2006

A University of California-San Francisco study suggests, contrary to popular belief, emergency rooms treat insured and non-insured people equally.

Recommended for you

Unraveling the 'black ribbon' around lung cancer

Apr 17, 2014

It's not uncommon these days to find a colored ribbon representing a disease. A pink ribbon is well known to signify breast cancer. But what color ribbon does one think of with lung cancer?

User comments : 0

More news stories

Treating depression in Parkinson's patients

A group of scientists from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine and the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging has found interesting new information in a study on depression and neuropsychological function in Parkinson's ...

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.