Objective: Septic shock is a severe, often terminal, complication of malignancy. For patients without malignancy, outcome from septic shock has improved with new advances in care. We wished to explore whether outcome from septic shock has similarly improved for cancer patients, with regard to implementation of recent adjuvant therapies.
Design: An 8-yr retrospective observational study.
Setting: A 24-bed medical intensive care unit in a university hospital.
Patients: Patients were 238 consecutive cancer patients (solid tumors or hematologic malignancies) with septic shock admitted to the intensive care unit within two consecutive 4-yr periods: 1998-2001 and 2002-2005.
Measurements and main results: Septic shock occurred in 90 patients in 1998-2001 and 148 in 2002-2005. Management of septic shock between the two periods mostly differed by emergence of adjuvant therapies of sepsis (mainly low-dose glucocorticoids) and intensive insulin therapy and a more frequent use of renal replacement therapy in the recent period. Short-term survival rates were significantly higher during 2002-2005 compared with the previous 4-yr period: 28-day, intensive care unit, and hospital survival rates were 47.3% vs. 27.8% (p = .003), 41.2% vs. 26.7% (p = .02), and 36.5% vs. 21.1% (p = .01), respectively. After adjustment, intensive care unit admission between 2002 and 2005 was an independent favorable prognostic factor for short-term outcome. Improved survival was mainly observed in patients who did not require renal replacement therapy during their stay in the intensive care unit (hospital survival 65% in 2002-2005 vs. 21.4% in 1998-2001, p < .001).
Conclusions: Improved outcome in critically ill cancer patients extended to the subgroup of patients with septic shock. This might be ascribed both to a better selection of patients and to improvements in the care and management, including new therapeutic strategies for sepsis.