The Surgical Treatment of Cancer: A Comparison of Resource Utilization following Procedures Performed with Curative and Palliative Intent

Carey A. Cullinane, Tami Borneman, David D. Smith, David Z.J. Chu, Betty R. Ferrell, Lawrence D. Wagman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND. Costs associated with the provision of medical care continue to escalate. Therefore, providers must evaluate the cost-effectiveness and benefit to individual healthcare practices. The authors evaluated the immediate and short-term resource utilization needs of patients undergoing surgical intervention with curative or palliative intent. METHODS. Three hundred two patients undergoing surgery with therapeutic intent were observed from the time of admission for intervention until the time of death or until 6 months from the time of the surgical procedure. Surgeons preoperatively identified each case as either curative or palliative in intent. Demographic information, as well as the nature of all interactions with the cancer center, was recorded. RESULTS. Surgeons identified 58 (19%) procedures as palliative and 244 (81%) as curative in intent. Demographic characteristics between the two groups were similar, although recurrent or metastatic disease was more often present in palliative rather than curative patients (P = 0.0078) and palliative intent patients were more likely to have received previous therapy. During the 6-month period, 4690 encounters occurred with the cancer center. The mean number of encounters per patient in each group was similar, although curative intent patients were more likely to have visits with therapeutic intent including chemotherapy administration (P = 0.01), radiation (P = 0.003), or repeat surgical procedures (P = 0.006). In contrast, palliative patients were more likely to be admitted for management of symptoms (P = 0.0001) and had fewer hospital-free days than did curative patients (P = 0.0069). CONCLUSIONS. The average number of encounters for patients undergoing treatment of disease was not significantly different, suggesting that patients undergoing surgery with palliative intent do not require a greater amount of resources than curative intent patients. The nature of the interactions, however, was different, suggesting that resource needs are different and may need to be anticipated in the assessment of how better quality outcomes can be achieved in the palliative surgery setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2266-2273
Number of pages8
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 15 2003


  • Cancer
  • Healthcare economics
  • Palliative care
  • Resource utilization
  • Surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

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