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Ann Acad Med Singapore. 2009 Jun;38(6):515-6.

Profiling acute presenting symptoms of geriatric patients attending an urban hospital emergency department.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Singapore.



To study the profile of geriatric patients warded to the emergency department (ED) of an Asian acute care general hospital and determine if they are 'more ill', more likely to have atypical presentations and have a higher utilisation of healthcare resources when compared to a younger group of patients.


This is a retrospective chart review of consecutive patients aged 45 years and above presenting to the study ED over a period of 4 weeks from 4 June 2006 to 1 July 2006. The following data were obtained: (i) demographics, (ii) mode of arrival and triage acuity, (iii) presence of co-morbidities, (iv) investigations ordered in the ED, (v) clinical symptoms and diagnoses, (vi) disposition, (vii) length of hospital stay, (viii) injuries and outcomes of elderly fallers. The study population was divided into 2 groups--a study group with patients aged 65 years and above, and a control group with patients aged 45 to 64.


There were 2847 patients in the study group and these were compared against 2875 in the control group. Those 65 years and above had greater representation in the ED population compared to the general population. In the study group, the proportion of females, the number arriving by ambulance and the likelihood of having a higher triage acuity increased with age. The elderly had higher rates of co-morbidities. They also had a higher resource utilisation rate. Falls was their commonest presenting complaint.


It is crucial that EDs recognise the special needs of elderly patients due to the growing ageing population. Healthcare policy makers when allocating resources should take into account the profile of elderly patients presenting to an ED and their resource utilisation.

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