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COVID-19 impact on an oncologic emergency department visits: observational study
  1. Aurélie Ram1,
  2. Arnaud Pagès2,
  3. Edouard Cubilier3,
  4. Nesrine Daoudi4,
  5. Frederic Vandergheynst1,
  6. Florian Scotte4,
  7. Sami Antoun4 and
  8. Mansouriah Merad4
  1. 1Internal medicine, Hôpital Erasme, Brussels, Belgium
  2. 2Biostatistics, Gustave Roussy Institute, Villejuif, Île de France, France
  3. 3Internal medicine, Brugmann University Hospital, Brussels, Belgium
  4. 4Oncology, Gustave Roussy Institute, Villejuif, Île-de-France, France
  1. Correspondence to Dr Aurélie Ram, Hôpital Erasme, Bruxelles, Belgium; aureram{at}


Objective This study aimed at evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on emergency department (ED) visits in a tertiary cancer centre and providing information on the features of the unplanned events during the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods This retrospective observational study based on data from ED reports was divided into three periods of 2 months each around the first lockdown announcement of 17 March 2020: pre-lockdown, lockdown and post-lockdown.

Results A total of 903 ED visits were included in the analyses. The mean (±SD) daily number of ED visits did not change during the lockdown period (14.6±5.5) when compared with the periods before (13.6±4.5) and after lockdown (13.7±4.4) (p=0.78). The proportion of ED visits for fever and respiratory disorders increased significantly to 29.5% and 28.5%, respectively (p<0.01) during lockdown. Pain, the third most frequent motive, remained stable with 18.2% (p=0.83) throughout the three periods. Symptom severity also showed no significant differences in the three periods (p=0.31).

Conclusion Our study shows that ED visits during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic remained stable for our patients regardless of the symptom’s severity. The fear of an in-hospital viral contamination appears weaker than the need for pain management or for the treatment of cancer-related complications. This study highlights the positive impact of cancer ED in the first-line treatment and supportive care of patients with cancer.

  • Cancer
  • COVID-19
  • Supportive care

Data availability statement

Data are available upon request.

This article is made freely available for personal use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon request.

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  • Contributors AR conceptualised and designed the study, collected the data, drafted the initial manuscript and reviewed and revised the manuscript. AP carried out the statistical analyses and reviewed and revised the manuscript. EC participated in the study conceptualisation, reviewed and revised the manuscript. ND, FV reviewed and revised the manuscript. SA, MM conceptualised and designed the study and reviewed and revised the manuscript. All authors approved the final manuscript as submitted and agree to be accountable for all aspects of the work. MM accepts responsibility for the finished work and the conduct of the study, had acces to the data, and controlled the decision to publish. MM is responsible for the overall content as the guarantor.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.