Study objective: The emergency department (ED) is an inherently high-risk setting. Early death after an ED evaluation is a rare and devastating outcome; understanding it can potentially help improve patient care and outcomes. Using administrative data from an integrated health system, we describe characteristics and predictors of patients who experienced 7-day death after ED discharge.
Methods: Administrative data from 12 hospitals were used to identify death after discharge in adults aged 18 year or older within 7 days of ED presentation from January 1, 2007, to December 31, 2008. Patients who were nonmembers of the health system, in hospice care, or treated at out-of-network EDs were excluded. Predictors of 7-day postdischarge death were identified with multivariable logistic regression.
Results: The study cohort contained a total of 475,829 members, with 728,312 discharges from Kaiser Permanente Southern California EDs in 2007 and 2008. Death within 7 days of discharge occurred in 357 cases (0.05%). Increasing age, male sex, and number of preexisting comorbidities were associated with increased risk of death. The top 3 primary discharge diagnoses predictive of 7-day death after discharge included noninfectious lung disease (odds ratio [OR] 7.1; 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.9 to 17.4), renal disease (OR 5.6; 95% CI 2.2 to 14.2), and ischemic heart disease (OR 3.8; 95% CI 1.0 to 13.6).
Conclusion: Our study suggests that 50 in 100,000 patients in the United States die within 7 days of discharge from an ED. To our knowledge, our study is the first to identify potentially "high-risk" discharge diagnoses in patients who experience a short-term death after discharge.
Copyright © 2011 American College of Emergency Physicians. Published by Mosby, Inc. All rights reserved.