Open Access Research article

Admission of advanced lung cancer patients to intensive care unit: A retrospective study of 76 patients

Claire Andréjak1*, Nicolas Terzi23, Stéphanie Thielen1, Emmanuel Bergot4, Gérard Zalcman4, Pierre Charbonneau2 and Vincent Jounieaux1

Author Affiliations

1 Service de Pneumologie et Réanimation. Centre Hospitalier Universitaire. Amiens, France

2 Service de Réanimation Médicale. Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Côte de Nacre. Caen, France

3 INSERM, ERI27, Caen, F-14000 France; University of Caen, Caen, France

4 Service de Pneumologie. Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Côte de Nacre. Caen, France

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BMC Cancer 2011, 11:159  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-159

Published: 2 May 2011



Criteria for admitting patients with incurable diseases to the medical intensive care unit (MICU) remain unclear and have ethical implications.


We retrospectively evaluated MICU outcomes and identified risk factors for MICU mortality in consecutive patients with advanced lung cancer admitted to two university-hospital MICUs in France between 1996 and 2006.


Of 76 included patients, 49 had non-small cell lung cancer (stage IIIB n = 20; stage IV n = 29). In 60 patients, MICU admission was directly related to the lung cancer (complication of cancer management, n = 30; cancer progression, n = 14; and lung-cancer-induced diseases, n = 17). Mechanical ventilation was required during the MICU stay in 57 patients. Thirty-six (47.4%) patients died in the MICU. Three factors were independently associated with MICU mortality: use of vasoactive agents (odds ratio [OR] 6.81 95% confidence interval [95%CI] [1.77-26.26], p = 0.005), mechanical ventilation (OR 6.61 95%CI [1.44-30.5], p = 0.015) and thrombocytopenia (OR 5.13; 95%CI [1.17-22.5], p = 0.030). In contrast, mortality was lower in patients admitted for a complication of cancer management (OR 0.206; 95%CI [0.058-0.738], p = 0.015). Of the 27 patients who returned home, four received specific lung cancer treatment after the MICU stay.


Patients with acute complications of treatment for advanced lung cancer may benefit from MCIU admission. Further studies are necessary to assess outcomes such as quality of life after MICU discharge.