Intensive care in patients with lung cancer: a multinational study

Ann Oncol. 2014 Sep;25(9):1829-35. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdu234. Epub 2014 Jun 20.


Background: Detailed information about lung cancer patients requiring admission to intensive care units (ICUs) is mostly restricted to single-center studies. Our aim was to evaluate the clinical characteristics and outcomes of lung cancer patients admitted to ICUs.

Patients and methods: Prospective multicenter study in 449 patients with lung cancer (small cell, n = 55; non-small cell, n = 394) admitted to 22 ICUs in six countries in Europe and South America during 2011. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards frailty models were built to identify characteristics associated with 30-day and 6-month mortality.

Results: Most of the patients (71%) had newly diagnosed cancer. Cancer-related complications occurred in 56% of patients; the most common was tumoral airway involvement (26%). Ventilatory support was required in 53% of patients. Overall hospital, 30-day, and 6-month mortality rates were 39%, 41%, and 55%, respectively. After adjustment for type of admission and early treatment-limitation decisions, determinants of mortality were organ dysfunction severity, poor performance status (PS), recurrent/progressive cancer, and cancer-related complications. Mortality rates were far lower in the patient subset with nonrecurrent/progressive cancer and a good PS, even those with sepsis, multiple organ dysfunctions, and need for ventilatory support. Mortality was also lower in high-volume centers. Poor PS predicted failure to receive the initially planned cancer treatment after hospital discharge.

Conclusions: ICU admission was associated with meaningful survival in lung cancer patients with good PS and non-recurrent/progressive disease. Conversely, mortality rates were very high in patients not fit for anticancer treatment and poor PS. In this subgroup, palliative care may be the best option.

Keywords: cancer-related complications; intensive care; lung cancer; multicenter study; outcome.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / mortality
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / therapy*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Critical Care*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome