Treatment-Related Complications of Systemic Therapy and Radiotherapy

James B. Yu, Vikram Jairam, Victor Lee, Henry S. Park, Charles R. Thomas, Edward R. Melnick, Cary P. Gross, Carolyn J. Presley, Kerin B. Adelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Importance: Systemic therapy and radiotherapy can be associated with acute complications that may require emergent care. However, there are limited data characterizing complications and the financial burden of cancer therapy that are treated in emergency departments (EDs) in the United States. Objectives: To estimate the incidence of treatment-related complications of systemic therapy or radiotherapy, examine factors associated with inpatient admission, and investigate the overall financial burden. Design, Setting, and Participants: A retrospective analysis of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Emergency Department Sample was performed. Between January 2006 and December 2015, there was a weighted total of 1.3 billion ED visits; of these, 1.5 million were related to a complication of systemic therapy or radiotherapy for cancer. Data analysis was conducted from February 22 to December 23, 2018. External cause of injury codes, Clinical Classifications Software, International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification, and International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, Tenth Revision (ICD-10), Clinical Modification codes were used to identify patients with complications of systemic therapy or radiotherapy. Main Outcomes and Measures: Patterns in treatment-related complications, patient- and hospital-related factors associated with inpatient admission, and median and total charges for treatment-related complications were the main outcomes. Results: Of the 1.5 million ED visits included in the analysis, 53.2% of patients were female and mean age was 63.3 years. Treatment-related ED visits increased by a rate of 10.8% per year compared with 2.0% for overall ED visits. Among ED visits, 90.9% resulted in inpatient admission to the hospital and 4.9% resulted in death during hospitalization. Neutropenia (136 167 [8.9%]), sepsis (128 171 [8.4%]), and anemia (117 557 [7.7%]) were both the most common and costliest (neutropenia: 5.52 billion; sepsis: 11.21 billion; and anemia: 6.78 billion) complications diagnosed on presentation to EDs; sepsis (odds ratio [OR], 21.00; 95% CI, 14.61-30.20), pneumonia (OR, 9.73; 95% CI, 8.08-11.73), and acute kidney injury (OR, 9.60; 95% CI, 7.77-11.85) were associated with inpatient admission. Costs related to the top 10 most common complications totaled 38 billion and comprised 48% of the total financial burden of the study cohort. Conclusions and Relevance: Emergency department visits for complications of systemic therapy or radiotherapy increased at a 5.5-fold higher rate over 10 years compared with overall ED visits. Neutropenia, sepsis, and anemia appear to be the most common complications; sepsis, pneumonia, and acute kidney injury appear to be associated with the highest rates of inpatient admission. These complications suggest that significant charges are incurred on ED visits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1028-1035
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Oncology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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