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J Thorac Oncol. 2011 Mar;6(3):633-8. doi: 10.1097/JTO.0b013e318200f9eb.

The outcome of medical intensive care for lung cancer patients: the case for optimism.

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  • 1Section of Pulmonary and Critical Care, Karmanos Cancer Center, Detroit, Michigan, USA.


In recent years, there have been significant advances in the management of patients with lung cancer. This progress is associated with increased use of medical intensive care units (ICUs) for the management of a variety of complications related to cancer, its treatment, or comorbid illnesses. At the same time, there are advances in the care of critically ill patients in general. Over the last decade, there are several studies that report progressive improvement in the outcome of lung cancer patients admitted to the medical ICUs. On average, the ICU and hospital mortality rates of lung cancer patients are 36% and 51%, respectively. These rates are approaching those of critically ill general population. However, it is clear that not all lung cancer patients will benefit from this aggressive care. Although there are no absolute predictors, the current evidence suggests that advanced refractory cancer, poor baseline performance status, the need for mechanical ventilation, and multiple organ system failures are factors associated with worse ICU outcome. Further studies are needed to better triage patients who are going to benefit from ICU care; determine the optimal duration of this care; and assess the impact of this therapy on the long-term survival, cancer treatment, and quality of life of these patients.

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