The picture of oncologic emergencies in the intensive care unit has changed over the past decade. The classic emergencies, that is, superior vena cava syndrome, spinal cord compression, tumor lysis syndrome and life-threatening hypercalcemia, are now routinely managed on the general oncology unit or in an outpatient setting. Vigilant monitoring for early signs of complications, proactive interventions to prevent complications, and aggressive management account for this change. Currently, emergent conditions that necessitate intensive care unit admission or transfer in the patient with cancer include respiratory failure, cardiac emergencies, hemorrhagic events and coagulopathies, sepsis, and hemodynamic instability. This article will present the current evidence-based management of these conditions, a brief summary of classic oncologic emergencies, and the role of the critical care nurse in meeting the multidimensional needs of the patient and family during the life-threatening episode, based on Ferrell’s quality of life model.

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