‘Intense’ end-of-life care may be common in HSCT recipients


Photo by Diane Reid

Hospital room

Patients who die within a year of allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) tend to receive “medically intense” end-of-life care, an analysis suggests.

Researchers studied more than 2,000 patients who died within a year of allogeneic HSCT and found that a majority of the patients died in the hospital, and about half of them were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).

However, patient age, underlying diagnosis, and other factors influenced the likelihood of receiving intense end-of-life care.

For example, patients diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) or myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) were less likely than patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) to receive medically intense care.

Emily Johnston, MD, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and her colleagues reported these findings in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The researchers studied 2,135 patients in California who underwent inpatient HSCT and died within a year of the transplant (not as a result of peripartum events or trauma) between 2000 and 2013.

Fifty-three percent of the patients received some type of medically intense intervention, and 57% had at least two types of intense interventions.

Eighty-three percent of patients died in hospital, and 43% spent all of their last 30 days in the hospital.

Forty-nine percent of patients were admitted to the ICU, 45% were intubated, 22% underwent hemodialysis, and 8% received cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Factors associated with intense care

The researchers said receipt of a medically intense intervention varied by age at death, underlying diagnosis, year of HSCT, location of care, and comorbidities. However, use of intense interventions did not vary according to sex, race/ethnicity, insurance type, or income.

Compared to patients age 60 and older, patients in the following age groups were more likely to receive medically intense interventions:

  • Ages 15 to 21—odds ratio (OR)=2.6 (P<0.001)
  • Ages 30 to 39—OR=1.8 (P<0.01)
  • Ages 40 to 49—OR=1.4 (P<0.05).

Patients with comorbidities were more likely to receive intense interventions as well. The OR was 1.6 (P<0.01) for patients with one comorbidity and 2.5 (P<0.001) for patients with two or more comorbidities.

Patients with AML or MDS were less likely than patients with ALL to receive a medically intense intervention—OR=0.7 (P<0.05).

Patients who were transplanted between 2000 and 2004 were less likely to receive an intense intervention than patients transplanted between 2010 and 2013—OR=0.7 (P<0.01).

Patients who changed hospitals between HSCT and death were less likely to receive an intense intervention than patients who stayed at the same hospital. The OR was 0.3 if they transferred to a community hospital and 0.4 if they transferred to a specialty hospital (P<0.001 for both).

Patients living in rural areas were less likely than urban patients to receive a medically intense intervention—OR=0.6 (P<0.05).

“From our data, we understand there is a correlation with high-intensity end-of-life care in patients who die within one year after receiving a stem cell transplant, but we are still unsure if that was the care they wanted,” Dr. Johnston said.

“The findings suggest that, as oncologists, we need to start having end-of-life care conversations earlier with patients to determine if a high-intensity treatment plan is consistent with their goals or if a lower-intensity treatment plan is best. It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach in end-of-life care.”

This research was supported by Stanford University. One study author reported relationships with Corvus Pharmaceuticals, Shire Pharmaceuticals, and Adaptive Biotechnologies. All other authors reported no conflicts.

Next Article: