To compare emergency department (ED) use by elderly patients (age 65 yrs or older) with that by younger adult patients (age 15-64 yrs), a prospective consecutive chart review study was conducted from August 1, 1995 through May 31, 1996 in eight designated hospitals in Taipei city (which has 2.6 million residents, 8.4% of whom are 65 yrs or older). Patient age, sex, mode of arrival, living status, triage category, advanced life support (ALS) eligibility, referral, confinement to bed, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, impression, trauma mechanism, and disposition were recorded and compared between the two groups. Of 27,765 adult emergency patients studied during the 10 months, 24% were elderly. The elderly were more likely to be ambulance cases, of high acuity and ALS eligibility, living alone, bed- ridden, and ICU cases (19.4% v 10.5%, 14.8% v 5.5%, 14.7% v 4.3%, 9.7% v 4.1%, 16% v 1.1%, and 4.0 v 1.1%, respectively). The three leading illnesses in the elderly were cerebral vascular accident (6.6%), cancer (5.6%), and cardiovascular disease (5.6%), and the two most common trauma mechanisms were trip (fall from the same level surface) (57.2%) and traffic accident (20.7%). Twenty-seven percent and 22.7% of elderly were disposed to admission and observation, respectively, compared with the 10.9% and 11.4% of the younger patients. Elderly patients have significantly different and more severe presentations to the ED compared with younger adults.
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