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Depression and survival outcomes after emergency department cancer pain visits


Objectives Pain and depression frequently co-occur in patients with cancer. Although pain is a common reason for emergency department (ED) presentation by these patients, depression frequently goes unrecognised during an ED visit. In this study, we assessed the risk for depression in patients with cancer presenting to the ED for uncontrolled pain and assessed the extent to which the risk for depression was associated with survival in this population.

Methods Participants were consecutive patients with cancer taking Schedule II opioids (n=209) who presented to the ED of a tertiary cancer centre for uncontrolled pain. Risk for depression was assessed using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D), excluding the somatic symptoms. Survival was calculated from date of ED visit to date of death/last follow-up.

Results The CES-D was completed by 197 of 209 participants (94.3%); of these, 81 of 197 (41.1%) had high risk for depression (CES-D ≥10). The mean survival time for the entire sample was 318 days (SD=33), with 84 deaths. Cox proportional hazards regression modeling showed that risk for depression and disease stage (CES-D ≥10: HR=1.75, 95% CI 1.11 to 2.78, p=0.016; disease stage: HR=2.52, 95% CI 1.20 to 5.30, p<0.001) were significant factors for survival.

Conclusions Risk for depression was prevalent and associated with survival outcomes in patients with cancer presenting to the ED with uncontrolled pain. Screening for risk for depression in the ED may identify patients who need referral for clinical assessment of depression. Diagnosis and adequate treatment could improve health outcomes and survival rates for these patients.

  • depression
  • emergency medicine
  • cancer
  • pain
  • survival

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