Dissecting patterns and predictors of interhospital transfers for patients with brain metastasis

J Neurosurg. 2023 Jul 14;1-11. doi: 10.3171/2023.5.JNS222922. Online ahead of print.


Objective: Interhospital transfers in the acute setting may contribute to high cost, patient inconvenience, and delayed treatment. The authors sought to understand patterns and predictors in the transfer of brain metastasis patients after emergency department (ED) encounter.

Methods: The authors analyzed 3037 patients with brain metastasis who presented to the ED in Massachusetts and were included in the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project State Inpatient Database and State Emergency Department Database in 2018 and 2019.

Results: The authors found that 6.9% of brain metastasis patients who presented to the ED were transferred to another facility, either directly or indirectly after admission. The sending EDs were more likely to be nonteaching hospitals without neurosurgery and radiation oncology services (p < 0.01). Transferred patients were more likely to present with neurological symptoms compared to those admitted or discharged (p < 0.01). Among those transferred, approximately 30% did not undergo a significant procedure after transfer and approximately 10% were discharged within 3 days, in addition to not undergoing significant interventions. In total, 74% of transferred patients were sent to a facility significantly farther (> 3 miles) than the nearest facility with neurosurgery and radiation oncology services. Further distance transfers were not associated with improvements in 30-day readmission rate (OR [95% CI] 0.64 [0.30-1.34] for 15-30 miles; OR [95% CI] 0.73 [0.37-1.46] for > 30 miles), 90-day readmission rate (OR [95% CI] 0.50 [0.18-1.28] for 15-30 miles; OR [95% CI] 0.53 [0.18-1.51] for > 30 miles), and length of stay (OR [95% CI] 1.21 days [0.94-1.29] for both 15-30 miles and > 30 miles) compared to close-distance transfers.

Conclusions: The authors identified a notable proportion of transfers without subsequent significant intervention or appreciable medical management. This may reflect ED physician discomfort with the neurological symptoms of brain metastasis. Many patients were also transferred to hospitals distant from their point of origin and demonstrated no differences in readmission rates and length of stay.

Keywords: brain metastasis; brain tumor; healthcare delivery; healthcare systems; oncology; patient transfer; tumor.