Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 727–734 | Cite as

Indicators of surgery and survival in oncology inpatients requiring surgical evaluation for palliation

  • Brian D. Badgwell
  • Kerrington Smith
  • Ping Liu
  • Eduardo Bruera
  • Steven A. Curley
  • Janice N. Cormier
Original Article



We sought to determine the clinical presentation, management, and outcomes associated with surgical consultation for symptom palliation in oncology inpatients.

Materials and methods

We reviewed the medical records of inpatients for whom surgical consultations were requested (January 2000 to September 2006) at a tertiary referral cancer center to identify those who underwent surgical palliative evaluation (defined as consultation for symptoms attributable to an advanced or incurable malignancy). We used the Cox proportional hazards model to identify prognostic factors associated with overall survival (OS) and logistic regression to identify factors associated with surgical intervention.


Surgical consultation was requested for 1,102 inpatients; 442 (40%) met the criteria for surgical palliative evaluation. Gastrointestinal obstruction was the most common complaint (43%), while wound complications/infection and gastrointestinal bleeding accounted for 10% and 8%, respectively. The median OS was 2.9 months. Adverse prognostic factors for OS included ≥2 radiologically evident disease sites (HR = 1.4; 95% CI, 1.1–1.8) and carcinomatosis/sarcomatosis (HR = 1.4; 95% CI, 1.1–1.7). Palliative surgical procedures were performed in 119 (27%) patients, with a 90-day morbidity and mortality rate of 40% and 7% respectively. Patients with wound complications (OR = 3.3; 95% CI, 1.4–7.6), intestinal obstruction (OR = 1.9; 95% CI, 1.1–3.2), or an intact primary/recurrent tumor (OR = 3.6; 95% CI, 2.2–6.0) were more likely to undergo surgical intervention. Patients with ascites were less likely to undergo surgery (OR = 0.4; 95% CI, 0.2–0.8).


Surgical palliative evaluations accounted for 40% of inpatient surgical consultations. Given that OS in this population is short and surgery is associated with considerable morbidity and mortality, non-operative management is desirable.


Palliative care Surgery Surgical oncology Morbidity Mortality 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian D. Badgwell
    • 1
  • Kerrington Smith
    • 2
  • Ping Liu
    • 3
  • Eduardo Bruera
    • 4
  • Steven A. Curley
    • 2
  • Janice N. Cormier
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Surgical Oncology, Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer InstituteUniversity of Arkansas for Medical SciencesLittle RockUSA
  2. 2.Department of Surgical Oncology, Unit 444The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA
  3. 3.Department of Biostatistics and Applied MathematicsThe University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA
  4. 4.The Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation MedicineThe University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA

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