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JAMA Oncol. 2017 Oct 12;3(10):e172450. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.2450. Epub 2017 Oct 12.

Trends in Adult Cancer-Related Emergency Department Utilization: An Analysis of Data From the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample.

Author information

Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, Rockville, Maryland.
National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Office of Emergency Care Research, Bethesda, Maryland.
Department of Emergency Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois.



The emergency department (ED) is used to manage cancer-related complications among the 15.5 million people living with cancer in the United States. However, ED utilization patterns by the population of US adults with cancer have not been previously evaluated or described in published literature.


To estimate the proportion of US ED visits made by adults with a cancer diagnosis, understand the clinical presentation of adult patients with cancer in the ED, and examine factors related to inpatient admission within this population.

Design, Setting, and Participants:

Nationally representative data comprised of 7 survey cycles (January 2006-December 2012) from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample were analyzed. Identification of adult (age ā‰„18 years) cancer-related visits was based on Clinical Classifications Software diagnoses documented during the ED visit. Weighted frequencies and proportions of ED visits among adult patients with cancer by demographic, geographic, and clinical characteristics were calculated. Weighted multivariable logistic regression was used to examine the associations between inpatient admission and key demographic and clinical variables for adult cancer-related ED visits.

Main Outcomes and Measures:

Adult cancer-related ED utilization patterns; identification of primary reason for ED visit; patient-related factors associated with inpatient admission from the ED.


Among an estimated 696 million weighted adult ED visits from January 2006 to December 2012, 29.5 million (4.2%) were made by a patient with a cancer diagnosis. The most common cancers associated with an ED visit were breast, prostate, and lung cancer, and most common primary reasons for visit were pneumonia (4.5%), nonspecific chest pain (3.7%), and urinary tract infection (3.2%). Adult cancer-related ED visits resulted in inpatient admissions more frequently (59.7%) than non-cancer-related visits (16.3%) (Pā€‰<ā€‰.001). Septicemia (odds ratio [OR], 91.2; 95% CI, 81.2-102.3) and intestinal obstruction (OR, 10.94; 95% CI, 10.6-11.4) were associated with the highest odds of inpatient admission.

Conclusions and Relevance:

Consistent with national prevalence statistics among adults, breast, prostate, and lung cancer were the most common cancer diagnoses presenting to the ED. Pneumonia was the most common reason for adult cancer-related ED visits with an associated high inpatient admission rate. This analysis highlights cancer-specific ED clinical presentations and the opportunity to inform patient and system-directed prevention and management strategies.

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