Introduction: Patients with abdominal pain often return multiple times despite no definitive diagnosis. Our objective was to determine if repeat emergency department (ED) use among patients with non-specific abdominal pain might be associated with a diagnosis of moderate to severe depressive disorder.
Methods: We screened 987 ED patients for major depression during weekday daytime hours from June 2011 through November 2011 using a validated depression screening tool, the PHQ-9. Each subject was classified as either no depression, mild depression or moderate/ severe depression based on the screening tool. Within this group, we identified 83 patients with non-specific abdominal pain by either primary or secondary diagnosis. Comparing depressed patients versus non-depressed patients, we analyzed demographic characteristics and number of prior ED visits in the past year.
Results: In patients with non-specific abdominal pain, 61.9% of patients with moderate or severe depression (PHQ9≥10) had at least one visit to our ED for the same complaint within a 365-day period, as compared to 29.2% of patients with no depression (PHQ9<5), (p=0.013).
Conclusion: Repeat ED use among patients with non-specific abdominal pain is associated with moderate to severe depressive disorder. Patients with multiple visits for abdominal pain may benefit from targeted ED screening for depression. [West J Emerg Med. 2014;15(3):325–328.]