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One in Three Hospital Patients is 65 or Older

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: May 16, 2006

Although only 12 percent of the U.S. population was age 65 years and older in 2003, the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has determined that the elderly accounted for one-third of all patients admitted to the nation's community hospitals in that year—more than 13 million hospital stays in all.

  • The elderly accounted for 44 percent of all hospital charges—nearly $329 billion.
  • The most commonly performed procedures in the hospital for the elderly, by number of elderly admissions with the procedure, were:
    1. Blood transfusion. Sixty percent of all blood transfusions were for the elderly (almost 1.2 million). Nearly one in every 11 elderly hospital patients received a transfusion.
    2. Diagnostic cardiac catheterization and coronary arteriography (852,300).
    3. Upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and biopsy (690,700).
    4. Respiratory intubation and mechanical ventilation (500,900).
    5. Percutaneous coronary angioplasty (401,900).
  • The five leading reasons for hospitalization of elderly patients, by number of admissions, were:
    1. Congestive heart failure (839,300).
    2. Pneumonia (770,400).
    3. Coronary atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries (675,700).
    4. Cardiac dysrhythmias (484,200).
    5. Acute myocardial infarction or heart attack (449,000).
  • The proportion of elderly patients who died while hospitalized was five times higher than that of younger patients.

These and other data are presented in Hospitalizations in the Elderly Population, 2003, HCUP Statistical Brief No. 6 at The report uses statistics from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, a database of hospital inpatient stays that is nationally representative of all short-term, non-Federal hospitals. The data are drawn from hospitals that comprise 90 percent of all discharges in the United States and include all patients, regardless of insurance type, as well as the uninsured.

To speak with the author of the report, or to obtain previous News and Numbers releases, contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.


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