Independent determinants of prolonged emergency department length of stay in a tertiary care centre: a prospective cohort study

Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med. 2018 Sep 20;26(1):81. doi: 10.1186/s13049-018-0547-5.


Background: Emergency department (ED) overcrowding is a potential threat for patient safety. We searched for independent determinants of prolonged ED length of stay (LOS) with the aim to identify factors which can be targeted to reduce ED LOS, which may help in preventing overcrowding.

Methods: This prospective cohort study included consecutive ED patients in a Dutch tertiary care centre. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was used to identify independent determinants of ED LOS > 4 h, including patient characteristics (demographics, referral type, acuity, (number of) presenting complaints and comorbidity), treating specialty, diagnostic testing, consultations, number of patients in the ED and disposition. Furthermore, we quantified the absolute time delays (measured in real-time) associated with the most important independent determinants of prolonged ED LOS.

Results: In 1434 included patients independent determinants of prolonged ED LOS were number and type of presenting complaints, specialty, laboratory/radiology testing and consultations, and ICU admission. Modifiable determinants with the largest impact were blood testing; Adjusted odds ratio (AOR (95%-CI)); 3.45 (1.95-6.11), urine testing; 1.79 (1.21-2.63), radiology imaging; 3.02 (2.13-4.30), and consultation; 5.90 (4.08-8.54). Combined with the laboratory/radiology testing and/or consultations (requested in 1123 (78%) patients) the decision-making and discharge process consumed between 74 (42%) and 117 (66%) minutes of the total ED LOS of 177 (IQR: 129-225) minutes.

Conclusions: In tertiary care EDs, ED LOS can be reduced if the process of laboratory/radiology testing and consulting is optimized and the decision-making and discharge procedures are accelerated.

Keywords: Emergency department; Emergency department length of stay; Overcrowding.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Clinical Decision-Making
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Length of Stay*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Discharge
  • Prospective Studies
  • Referral and Consultation
  • Tertiary Care Centers*
  • Young Adult