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MONDAY, Aug. 25, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Children with newly diagnosed leukemia who are admitted to the hospital on weekends have a longer hospital stay, wait longer to start chemotherapy and are more likely to suffer respiratory failure than those admitted on weekdays, a new study finds.
However, children admitted on weekends did not have a higher risk of death, the researchers added.
A team led by Elizabeth Goodman. of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. tracked more than 10,700 first hospitalizations of children with newly diagnosed leukemia. Of those patients, nearly 17 percent were admitted on a weekend.
Compared to those admitted on weekdays, patients admitted on weekends stayed in hospital 1.4 days longer, waited an average of about eight hours longer to start chemotherapy and were at higher risk for respiratory failure.
The study wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship. However, the researchers say the finding wasn't completely unexpected: Prior research has found that adults with leukemia are at increased risk for death if their first hospital admission is on a weekend.
"Given the increasing need for cost-effective care in medically complex children, these findings highlight a potential area for improvement in patient care and in cost reduction," the Philadelphia team wrote.
"Optimizing weekend resources may not only help to reduce hospital length of stay across all weekend admissions, but may also ensure the availability of comprehensive care for those weekend admissions," they added.
Leukemia accounts for 30 percent of all cancers diagnosed in children.
The study was published online Aug. 25 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
-- Robert Preidt
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SOURCE: JAMA Pediatrics, news release, Aug. 25, 2014