HM20 Virtual

Early recognition of oncologic emergencies deemed ‘crucial’


During an oncologic emergency, making a clinical decision during the early diagnostic period is one of the most critical things a hospitalist can do when caring for patients with cancer. Hospitalists may not always be well versed in the symptoms of oncologic emergencies, though, particularly with newer treatments like immunotherapy and targeted therapies. They also may be tempted to contact colleagues in oncology when they may be qualified to handle these emergencies on their own.

Dr. Megan Kruse, oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic

Dr. Megan Kruse

At the end of her question-and-answer session, “Getting to Know Oncology Emergencies: Recognition and Management” to be presented on Aug. 12 at HM20 Virtual, the virtual annual meeting of the Society of Hospital Medicine, Megan Kruse, MD, hopes hospitalists will be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of “classic” oncologic emergencies they are likely to see in routine practice, as well as side effects of newer therapies they may not have encountered. Attendees will know how to manage these situations and understand when they need to involve a cancer specialist.

“Early recognition of these emergencies is crucial, and there are simple initial interventions that can make a big difference in patient outcomes,” said Dr. Kruse, an oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic.

In her presentation, Dr. Kruse will review oncologic emergencies that can occur in patients with acute leukemia such as acute blast crisis, as well as spinal cord compression and neutropenic fever. These complications are common in patients with cancer: Many cancers, such as multiple myeloma, lung cancer, and breast cancer, can cause spinal metastases that lead to spinal cord compression, while studies have shown neutropenic fever can occur in up to 80% of patients who undergo chemotherapy.

The presentation also will outline how hospitalists can manage specific side effects of immunotherapy and targeted therapies during an emergency situation. Dr. Kruse noted the session also will focus on when to start steroids for immune-related adverse event concerns and when to think about adding alternate immunosuppression. Complications of these therapies can differ from those of traditional chemotherapy, and not all hospitalists may be expecting them. Side effects from cancer therapy also can present months after treatment, further complicating the nature of oncologic emergencies in a hospital setting.

Recognizing the signs of such emergencies can be crucial for patients, especially if clinical decisions are made before a hospitalist can reach an oncologist for consult. Some decisions can be made by hospitalists themselves, while others may require specialty knowledge from an oncologist, Dr. Kruse noted. Regardless, it is important to consider cancer treatment history in a patient’s differential diagnosis.

Dr. Kruse has given presentations on oncologic emergencies at SHM annual conferences in the past, but notes this year’s virtual presentation will include more cases and examples of complications to improve recognition of these conditions. Empowering a hospitalist to know which decisions they can make on their own – and what situations need an intervention from oncologist colleagues – is important to optimize outcomes in patients with oncologic emergencies.

“I hope that attendees will leave with a better idea of what symptoms should be, warning signs of impending oncologic emergencies/complications, and what measures can be taken to treat these conditions prior to oncology service involvement,” Dr. Kruse said.

Dr. Kruse reported advisory board involvement for Novartis Oncology and consulting for Puma Biotechnology.

Getting to Know Oncology Emergencies: Recognition and Management

Live Q&A: Wednesday, Aug. 12, 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

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