ED Visits Up 23% in 10 Years

Cheryl Clark, August 10, 2010

There were nearly 117 million patient visits to the nation's emergency departments in 2007, a 23% increase over a decade, or 39.4 visits per 100 persons, according to a federal National Health Statistics Reports review.

The report quantified the leading reasons for visits for patients aged 65 or over as chest pain, shortness of breath, and abdominal pain. The leading reason for children's ED visits was fever, cough, and vomiting. Lastly, the leading reason for visits among patients 15-64 was pain and abdominal pain.

Medicaid or the state Children's Health Insurance programs reimbursed about one in four patient visits to the emergency room in 2007, the report found.

Among other trends and findings from the report:

  • Patients who were assessed as needing to be seen immediately made up 4.5% of ED visits, and between 1 and 14 minutes, 11.3%. Those needing attention within 15 to 60 minutes made up 38.5%, one to two hours, 21%.
  • Nearly one in four patients presented to the ED with severe pain.
  • Visits for injury, poisoning and adverse effects of medical treatment accounted for 39.4 million visits, or 33.7%, or 13.3 visits per 100 persons.
  • Adults age 75 or older had the highest visit rate for injuries, poisoning and adverse effects of medical treatment, followed by adults 15-64.
  • There were about 365,000 ED visits for dog bites in 2007 and 123 visits for dog bites per 100,000 people.
  • Leading body sites for injuries were wrist, hand, fingers and face.
  • Visits for injury, poisoning or adverse effects of treatment were almost twice as high for black people than for white people, 22.1 visits per 100 black persons compared with 12.6 per 100 U.S. white people.
  • Two-thirds of all injury related visits were for unintentional injuries.
  • Two-thirds of patient ED visits required less than four hours of waiting.
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