Impact of underlying malignancy on emergency department utilization and outcomes.

Journal Article (Journal Article)


Cancer patients frequently utilize the emergency department (ED) for a variety of diagnoses both related to and unrelated to their cancer, yet ED outcomes for cancer patients are not well documented. This study sought to define risks and identify predictors for inpatient admission and hospital mortality among cancer patients presenting to the ED.

Patients and methods

We utilized the National Emergency Department Sample to identify patients with and without a diagnosis of cancer presenting to the ED between January 2016 and December 2018. We used multivariable mixed-effects logistic regression models to assess the influence of cancer on outcomes of hospital admission after the ED visit and hospital mortality for the whole patient cohort and individual presenting diagnoses.


There were 340 million weighted ED visits, of which 8.3 million (2.3%) were associated with a cancer diagnosis. Compared to non-cancer patients, patients with cancer had an increased risk of inpatient admission (64.7% vs. 14.8%; p < 0.0001) and hospital mortality (4.6% vs. 0.5%; p < 0.0001). For each of the top 15 presenting diagnoses, cancer patients had increased risks of hospitalization (odds ratio [OR] range 2.0-13.2) or death (OR range 2.1-14.4). Although our dataset does not contain reliable estimation of stage, cancer site was the most robust individual predictor associated with the risk of hospitalization or death compared to other clinical or system-related factors.


Cancer patients in the ED have high risks for hospital admission and death when compared to patients without cancer. Cancer patients represent a distinct population and may benefit from cancer-specific risk stratification or focused interventions to improve outcomes.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Qian, AS; Qiao, EM; Nalawade, V; Voora, RS; Kotha, NV; Dameff, C; Coyne, CJ; Murphy, JD

Published Date

  • December 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 10 / 24

Start / End Page

  • 9129 - 9138

PubMed ID

  • 34821051

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8683529

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2045-7634

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 2045-7634

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1002/cam4.4414


  • eng