National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2005 emergency department summary

Adv Data. 2007 Jun 29;(386):1-32.


Objective: This report presents the most current (2005) nationally representative data on visits to hospital emergency departments (ED) in the United States. Statistics are presented on selected hospital, patient, and visit characteristics. Selected trends in ED utilization from 1995 through 2005 are also presented.

Methods: Data are from the 2005 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS), the longest continuously running nationally representative survey of hospital ED and outpatient department (OPD) utilization. The NHAMCS collects data on visits to emergency and outpatient departments of nonfederal, short-stay, and general hospitals in the United States. Sample data are weighted to produce annual national estimates.

Results: During 2005, an estimated 115.3 million visits were made to hospital EDs, about 39.6 visits per 100 persons. This represents on average roughly 30,000 visits per ED in 2005, a 31 percent increase over 1995 (23,000). Visit rates have shown an increasing trend since 1995 for persons 22-49 years of age, 50-64 years of age, and 65 years of age and over. In 2005, about 0.5 million (0.4 percent) of visits were made by homeless individuals. Nearly 18 million patients arrived by ambulance (15.5 percent). At 1.9 percent of visits, the patient had been discharged from the hospital within the previous 7 days. Abdominal pain, chest pain, fever, and cough were the leading patient complaints, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all visits. Abdominal pain was the leading illness-related diagnosis at ED visits. There were an estimated 41.9 million injury-related visits or 14.4 visits per 100 persons. Diagnostic and screening services were provided at 71.1 percent of visits, and procedures were performed at 47.3 percent of visits. Medications were either given in the ED or prescribed at discharge at 76.7 percent of visits, resulting in 204.9 million drug mentions. On average, patients spent 56.3 minutes waiting to see a physician, and 3.3 hours for the full duration of their ED visit. About 12 percent of ED visits resulted in hospital admission. The average total length of stay for those admitted was 5.2 days, and the leading principal hospital discharge diagnosis was nonischemic heart disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Ambulatory Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ambulatory Care / trends
  • Drug Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Therapy / trends
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys*
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Diseases
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • United States