Disparities in the intensity of end-of-life care for children with cancer

Emily E. Johnston, Elysia Alvarez, Olga Saynina, Lee Sanders, Smita Bhatia, Lisa J. Chamberlain

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Many adult patients with cancer who know they are dying choose less intense care; additionally, high-intensity care is associated with worse caregiver outcomes. Little is known about intensity of end-of-life care in children with cancer. METHODS: By using the California Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development administrative database, we performed a population-based analysis of patients with cancer aged 0 to 21 who died between 2000 and 2011. Rates of and sociodemographic and clinical factors associated with previously-defined end-of-life intensity indicators were determined. The intensity indicators included an intense medical intervention (cardiopulmonary resuscitation, intubation, ICU admission, or hemodialysis) within 30 days of death, intravenous chemotherapy within 14 days of death, and hospital death. RESULTS: The 3732 patients were 34% non-Hispanic white, and 41% had hematologic malignancies. The most prevalent intensity indicators were hospital death (63%) and ICU admission (20%). Sixty-five percent had ≥1 intensity indicator, 23% ≥2, and 22% ≥1 intense medical intervention. There was a bimodal association between age and intensity: Ages <5 years and 15 to 21 years was associated with intense care. Patients with hematologic malignancies were more likely to have high-intensity end-of-life care, as were patients from underrepresented minorities, those who lived closer to the hospital, those who received care at a nonspecialty center (neither Children's Oncology Group nor National Cancer Institute Designated Cancer Center), and those receiving care after 2008. CONCLUSIONS: Nearly two-thirds of children who died of cancer experienced intense end-of-life care. Further research needs to determine if these rates and disparities are consistent with patient and/or family goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere20170671
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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