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Poor Outcomes After Emergency Department Discharge of the Elderly: A Case-Control Study.


Study objective

The emergency department (ED) is an inherently high-risk setting. Our objective is to identify the factors associated with the combined poor outcome of either death or an ICU admission shortly after ED discharge in older adults.


We conducted chart review of 600 ED visit records among adults older than 65 years that resulted in discharge from any of 13 hospitals within an integrated health system in 2009 to 2010. We randomly chose 300 patients who experienced the combined outcome within 7 days of discharge and matched case patients to controls who did not experience the outcome. Two emergency physicians blinded to the outcome reviewed the records and identified whether a number of characteristics were present. Predictors of the outcome were identified with conditional logistic regression.


Of 1,442,594 ED visits to Kaiser Permanente Southern California in 2009 to 2010, 300 unique cases and 300 unique control records were randomly abstracted. Characteristics associated with the combined poor outcome included cognitive impairment (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] 2.10; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.19 to 3.56), disposition plan change (AOR 2.71; 95% CI 1.50 to 4.89), systolic blood pressure less than 120 mm Hg (AOR 1.48; 95% CI 1.00 to 2.20), and pulse rate greater than 90 beats/min (AOR 1.66; 95% CI 1.02 to 2.71).


We found that older patients discharged from the ED with a change in disposition from "admit" to "discharge," cognitive impairment, systolic blood pressure less than 120 mm Hg, and pulse rate greater than 90 beats/min were at increased risk of death or ICU admission shortly after discharge. Increased awareness of these high-risk characteristics may improve ED disposition decisionmaking.

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