Use of emergency departments by elderly patients: Projections from a multicenter data base

Gary R. Strange, Edwin H. Chen, Arthur B. Sanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

171 Scopus citations


Study objectives: To assess the use of emergency medical care by the elderly in the United States, including emergency department visits, level of ED care required, ambulance services, and hospital admission rate. Setting and participants: A multicenter computerized data base of 70 hospitals in 25 states. Design: A retrospective review of elderly patients seeking ED care and comparison of elderly and nonelderly patients. The data were then used to estimate the use of emergency medical services nationally. Measurements and main results: Fifteen percent of the 1,193,743 ED visits were made by patients 65 years or older. Thirty-two percent of elderly patients seen in EDs were admitted to the hospital, compared with 7.5% of nonelderly patients. Seven percent of elderly patients were admitted to ICUs, compared with 1% of nonelderly patients. Thirty percent of elderly patients seeking emergency care used ambulance transports compared with 8% of nonelderly. It is estimated that 13,693,400 elderly patients were seen in EDs in 1990, with more than 4 million patients admitted to hospitals. Compared with the nonelderly, the elderly are 4.4 times more likely to use ambulance transport, 5.6 times more likely to be admitted to the hospital, 5.5 times more likely to be admitted to an intensive care bed, and 6.1 times more likely to be classified as a comprehensive ED level of service. In our sample, 36% of all patients arriving by ambulance to the ED, 43% of all ED admissions, and 48% of all intensive care admissions were geriatric patients. Conclusion: With the rapid growth of the size of the elderly population, it is important that we assess the emergency medical resources needed to care for the geriatric population.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)819-824
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1992


  • geriatrics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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