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What factors influence emergency department visits by patients with cancer at the end of life? Analysis of a 124,030 patient cohort

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)426-438
JournalPalliative Medicine
Issue number2
Early online date20 Jun 2017
Accepted/In press10 May 2017
E-pub ahead of print20 Jun 2017
Published1 Feb 2018


King's Authors


BACKGROUND: Emergency department visits towards the end of life by patients with cancer are increasing over time. This is despite evidence of an association with poor patient and caregiver outcomes and most patients preferring home-based care.

AIM: To identify socio-demographic and clinical factors associated with end-of-life emergency department visits and determine the relationship between patients' prior emergency department use and risk of multiple (⩾2) visits in the last month of life.

DESIGN: Population-based cohort study.

SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: All adults who died from cancer, in England, between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012. Our primary outcome was the adjusted odds ratio for multiple emergency department visits in the last month of life, derived using multivariable logistic regression.

RESULTS: Among 124,030 cancer decedents (52.9% men; mean age: 74.1 years), 30.7% visited the emergency department once in their last month of life and 5.1% visited multiple times. Patients were more likely to visit multiple times if they were men, younger, Asian or Black, of lower socio-economic status, had greater comorbidity, and lung or head and neck cancer. Patients with ⩾4 emergency department visits in the 11 months prior to their last month of life were also more likely to make multiple visits during their last 30 days; this followed a dose-response pattern ( p for trend <0.001).

CONCLUSION: Patients with greater comorbidity, lung or head and neck cancer and a higher number of previous emergency department visits are more likely to visit the emergency department multiple times in the last month of life. Previously reported socio-demographic factors (men, younger age, Black, low socio-economic status) are also confirmed for the first time in a UK population.

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