National characteristics of Emergency Department visits by patients with cancer in the United States

Joann Hsu, John P. Donnelly, Justin Xavier Moore, Karen Meneses, Grant Williams, Henry E. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Purpose: The Emergency Department (ED) is an important venue for the care of patients with cancer. We sought to describe the national characteristics of ED visits by patients with cancer in the United States. Methods: We performed an analysis of 2012–2014 ED visit data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS). We included adult (age ≥ 18 years) ED patients, stratified by history of cancer. Using the NHAMCS survey design and weighting variables, we estimated the annual number of adult ED visits by patients with cancer. We compared demographics, clinical characteristics, ED resource utilization, and disposition of cancer vs. non-cancer patients. Results: There were an estimated 104,836,398 annual ED visits. Patients with cancer accounted for an estimated 3,879,665 (95% CI: 3,416,435–4,342,895) annual ED visits. Compared with other ED patients, those with cancer were older (mean 64.8 vs. 45.4 years), more likely to arrive by Emergency Medical Services (28.0 vs. 16.9%), and experienced longer lengths of ED stay (mean 4.9 vs. 3.8 h). Over 65% of ED patients with cancer underwent radiologic imaging. Patients with cancer almost twice as likely to undergo CT scanning; four times more likely to present with sepsis; twice as likely to present with thrombosis, and three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital than non-cancer patients. Conclusions: Patients with cancer comprise nearly 4 million ED visits annually. The findings highlight the important role of the ED in cancer care and need for addressing acute care conditions in patients with cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2038-2043
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Dr. Wang received support from grant R01-NR012726 from the National Institute of Nursing Research . Dr. Moore received grant support from R25 CA47888 from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the funding agencies.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier Inc.


  • Cancer
  • Emergency Department

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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