Urgent Chemotherapy in Sepsis-Like Shock Related to Hematologic Malignancies

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Hematologic malignancies may result in multiple organ involvement including pulmonary and renal dysfunctions, and the less common acute circulatory failure. We herein addressed the outcome of patients with sepsis-like shock related to aggressive hematologic malignancies.


A 10-year (2007–2016) monocenter retrospective study.


A medical ICU in a tertiary care center.


Patients with circulatory shock requiring vasopressors and who subsequently received chemotherapy. Shock was presumably related to the underlying malignancy after ruling out an ongoing or new-onset infectious process. The extent and time course of organ failures was assessed by a modified Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score devoid of the platelet component.



Measurements and Main Results:

Seventeen patients were included, including 13 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma, two with hyperleukocytic acute myeloid leukemia, and two with “Human Herpes virus 8”–associated multicentric Castleman’s disease. The following associated conditions prompted urgent administration of chemotherapy: tumor lysis syndrome (n = 10), hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (n = 3), compressive bulky tumor (n = 3), pulmonary involvement (n = 3), and disseminated intravascular coagulation (n = 1). Following the initiation of chemotherapy, a number of patients died rapidly from untractable multiple organ failure. In contrast, chemotherapy led to a fast and dramatic improvement in organ failures in early survivors, as shown by the decrease in the modified Sequential Organ Failure Assessment score. However, the overall outcome was poor since only four and three patients could be discharged alive from the ICU and the hospital, and three and two patients remained alive at 6 months and 1 year.


Multiple organ dysfunction syndrome related to hematologic malignancies is associated with a dismal outcome. A chemotherapy trial may provide a fast prognostic assessment of the reversibility of organ failure.

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