Article Abstract

Do hospitals need oncological critical care units?

Authors: Abby Koch, William Checkley


Since the inception of critical care as a formal discipline in the late 1950s, we have seen rapid specialization to many types of intensive care units (ICUs) to accommodate evolving life support technologies and novel therapies in various disciplines of medicine. Indeed, the field has expanded such that specialized ICUs currently exist to address critical care problems in medicine, cardiology, neurology and neurosurgery, trauma, burns, organ transplant and cardiothoracic surgeries. Specialization does not only need new infrastructure, but also training and staffing of health care providers, ancillary staff, and development and implementation of processes of care. Oncology is another branch of medicine with growing ICU needs. Given the rise in cancer incidence worldwide and better survival rates alongside advances in chemotherapeutic and surgical options, more cancer patients are nowadays requiring advanced life support for cancer-related complications, treatment-related toxicities and severe infections. Here we provide a brief summary of the current evidence supporting the specialization of critical care and explore three different models of care for critically ill cancer patients, including the development of a specialized oncological ICU. Finally, we also discuss recently published and future research related to the care of critically ill cancer patients.