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Pattern of use and presenting complaints of older patients visiting an Emergency Department in Italy

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Background and aims

The number of older persons admitted to the Emergency Department (ED) is dramatically increasing due to their complex medical and social problems, which in turn lead to longer clinical evaluation times and increased use of resources compared to younger adults. However, scant data are available for Italian EDs. Similarly, no data are available about the reasons to ED visit and its role in determining the ED utilization pattern. The study aimed at describing the pattern of ED use by older patients and main presenting complaints.


Cross-sectional descriptive study of 5,826 ED patients in the city of Fano (Italy). Identifiers and triage, clinical and social data were collected. Presenting complaints as recorded by triage nurses have been recoded according to the Canadian Emergency Department Information System list version 1.1. Data were analyzed comparing older patients (more than 65 years-old) with younger adults (less than 65 years-old).


The prevalence of ED visits by older adults was 23.9 %. Their visits were characterized by higher emergency levels, admission rate and length of ED stay. Trauma was the main reason for ED presentation, especially among young adults, but elderly trauma patients were more frequently admitted because of hip fracture. Dyspnea and abdominal pain were the most frequent non-trauma presenting complaints among geriatric patients and represented the main causes for admission.


Older adults use the ED appropriately also in Italy. Trauma with complications (fracture) and various presenting complaints underlying medical problems accounted for more than 50 % of ED visits and hospital admissions.

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Correspondence to Fabio Salvi.

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Salvi, F., Mattioli, A., Giannini, E. et al. Pattern of use and presenting complaints of older patients visiting an Emergency Department in Italy. Aging Clin Exp Res 25, 583–590 (2013).

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