OBJECTIVES:Gastrointestinal (GI) emergencies may cause substantial morbidity. Our aims were to characterize the national clinical and economic burden of GI visits to emergency departments (EDs) in the United States.METHODS:We performed an observational cross-sectional study using the 2007 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, the largest US all-payer ED database, to identify the leading causes for ED visits due to GI diseases and their associated charges, stratified by age and sex. Logistic regression was used to analyze predictors of hospitalization after an ED visit.RESULTS:Of the 122 million ED visits in 2007, 15 million (12%) had a primary GI diagnosis. The leading primary GI diagnoses were abdominal pain (4.7 million visits), nausea and vomiting (1.6 million visits), and functional disorders of the digestive system (0.7 million visits). The leading diagnoses differed by age group. The fraction of ED visits resulting in hospitalization was 21.6% for primary GI diagnoses vs. 14.7% for non-GI visits. Women had more ED visits with a primary GI diagnosis than men (58.5 (95% CI 56.0-60.9) vs. 41.6 (95% CI 39.8-43.3) per 1000 persons), but lower rates of subsequent hospitalization (20.0% (95% CI 19.4-20.7%) vs. 24.0% (95% CI 23.3-24.6%)). There were no differences in hospitalization rates between sexes after adjustment by age, primary GI diagnosis, and Charlson Comorbidity Score. The total charges for ED visits with a primary GI diagnosis in 2007 were $27.9 billion.CONCLUSIONS:GI illnesses account for substantial clinical and economic burdens on US emergency medical services.
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