Hospital stays shorter today than 30 years ago

June 1, 2003

Pharmaceutical Representative

Hospital patients today had a much shorter stay on average (4.9 days) than patients hospitalized in 1970.

The 32.7 million patients in the nation's hospitals in 2001 had a much shorter stay on average (4.9 days) than patients hospitalized in 1970 (7.8 days), according to the 2001 National Hospital Discharge Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. Over the past three decades, the average length of a hospital stay dropped for all patients except children, with the most dramatic decrease experienced by elderly patients, whose average hospital stay in 2001 (5.8 days) was less than half of what it had been in 1970 (12.6 days).

In 2001, most inpatients stayed in the hospital for three days or less, 27% stayed for four to seven days, and only 16% stayed longer than a week, according to the report, which collects national data on discharges from non-federal short-stay hospitals in the United States.

Reasons for hospital stays

In 2001, as in earlier years, the most frequent reason for hospitalization was heart disease, accounting for 4.3 million discharges. While the rate of hospitalization for most conditions has decreased over the past two decades, hospitalizations for one condition - congestive heart failure - increased by 62% for those 65 and older from 1980 to 2001. This increase reflects success through drugs and surgery in treating more acute forms of heart disease, such as heart attacks, which extends the lives of many elderly people and makes it more likely that they will develop a chronic heart problem like congestive heart failure.

Elderly patients made up over 38% of the discharges, and used 46% of all inpatient days, even though they comprised only 12% of the population.

Cardiovascular conditions were associated with a significant portion of the 41 million procedures performed on hospital inpatients in 2001. For men, one-fifth of all procedures were cardiovascular; for women, only 10% were cardiovascular. Hospitals performed a million procedures to remove coronary artery obstructions and insert stents, 1.2 million cardiac catheterizations, and almost 2 million arteriography and angiocardiography procedures. Just over 300,000 inpatients had coronary artery bypass graft procedures.

Other major reasons for hospitalization were psychoses (1.6 million discharges), pneumonia (1.3 million), cancer (1.2 million) and fractures (1 million). Nearly one-fifth of the hospitalizations for women, or 3.8 million, were for childbirth. About a quarter of the 25 million procedures women experienced were obstetrical. PR

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