Background: Patients aged ≥ 65 years are vulnerable to readmissions due to a transient period of generalized risk after hospitalization. However, whether young and middle-aged adults share a similar risk pattern is uncertain. We compared the rate, timing, and readmission diagnoses following hospitalization for heart failure (HF), acute myocardial infarction (AMI), and pneumonia among patients aged 18-64 years with patients aged ≥ 65 years.
Methods and findings: We used an all-payer administrative dataset from California consisting of all hospitalizations for HF (n=206,141), AMI (n=107,256), and pneumonia (n=199,620) from 2007-2009. The primary outcomes were unplanned 30-day readmission rate, timing of readmission, and readmission diagnoses. Our findings show that the readmission rate among patients aged 18-64 years exceeded the readmission rate in patients aged ≥ 65 years in the HF cohort (23.4% vs. 22.0%, p<0.001), but was lower in the AMI (11.2% vs. 17.5%, p<0.001) and pneumonia (14.4% vs. 17.3%, p<0.001) cohorts. When adjusted for sex, race, comorbidities, and payer status, the 30-day readmission risk in patients aged 18-64 years was similar to patients ≥ 65 years in the HF (HR 0.99; 95%CI 0.97-1.02) and pneumonia (HR 0.97; 95%CI 0.94-1.01) cohorts and was marginally lower in the AMI cohort (HR 0.92; 95%CI 0.87-0.96). For all cohorts, the timing of readmission was similar; readmission risks were highest between days 2 and 5 and declined thereafter across all age groups. Diagnoses other than the index admission diagnosis accounted for a substantial proportion of readmissions among age groups <65 years; a non-cardiac diagnosis represented 39-44% of readmissions in the HF cohort and 37-45% of readmissions in the AMI cohort, while a non-pulmonary diagnosis represented 61-64% of patients in the pneumonia cohort.
Conclusion: When adjusted for differences in patient characteristics, young and middle-aged adults have 30-day readmission rates that are similar to elderly patients for HF, AMI, and pneumonia. A generalized risk after hospitalization is present regardless of age. Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary.