Surprise Question and Performance Status Indicate Urgency of Palliative Care Needs in Patients with Advanced Cancer at the Emergency Department: An Observational Cohort Study

Mary Joanne Verhoef, Ellen J.M. De Nijs, Marta Fiocco, Christian Heringhaus, Nanda Horeweg, Yvette M. Van Der Linden

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background: The surprise question (SQ), "Would I be surprised if this patient died within one year?", is a simple instrument to identify patients with palliative care needs. The SQ-performance has not been evaluated in patients with advanced cancer visiting the emergency department (ED). Objective: To evaluate SQ's test characteristics and predictive value in patients with advanced cancer visiting the ED. Design: Observational cohort study. Setting: Patients >18 years with advanced cancer in the palliative phase visiting the ED of an academic medical center. Methods: Attending physicians answered the SQ (not surprised [NS] or surprised [S]) and estimated Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG)-performance status. Disease, visit, and follow-up characteristics were retrospectively collected from charts. SQ's sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV), and Harrell's c-index were calculated. Prognostic values of SQ and other variables were assessed by using Cox proportional hazards models. Results: Two-hundred-and-forty-five patients were included (203 NS [83%] and 42 S [17%]), median age 62 years, 48% male. Follow-up on overall survival was updated until February 2019. At ED entry, NS-patients had worse ECOG-performance and more symptoms. At study closure, 233 patients had died (95%). Median survival was three months for NS-patients (interquartile [IQ]-range: 1-8); nine months for S-patients (IQ-range: 3-28) (p < 0.0001). SQ-performance for one-year mortality: sensitivity 89%, specificity 40%, PPV 85%, NPV 50%, c-index 0.56, and hazard ratio 2.1 for approaching death. ECOG 3-4 predicted death in NS-patients; addition to the SQ improved c-index (0.65); sensitivity (40%), specificity (92%), PPV (95%), and NPV (29%). Conclusions: At the ED, the SQ plus ECOG 3-4 helps identifying patients with advanced cancer and a limited life expectancy. Its use supports initiating appropriate care related to urgency of palliative care needs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)801-808
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
Volume23
Issue number6
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • emergency department
  • life expectancy
  • oncology
  • palliative care
  • prognostication
  • prospective study
  • surprise question

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