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Heart Disease, Pneumonia, Consistently the Most Common Reasons for Hospitalizing the Elderly

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: October 11, 2006

Cardiac-related conditions such as congestive heart failure, hardening of the arteries, heart beat irregularities, and heart attack accounted for four of the five most common principal diagnoses for hospitalizing elderly patients in 2004, according to a new report by the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

  • Collectively, these five conditions accounted for nearly 2.4 million hospital stays.
  • Pneumonia was the second-leading condition with 713,000 admissions.
  • The next five leading reasons for hospitalizing the elderly included:
    • Osteoarthritis.
    • Stroke.
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
    • Rehabilitation care.
    • Fluid and electrolyte disorders, such as abnormally high sodium levels in the blood.
  • The leading causes of hospitalization of the elderly have remained largely consistent since 1997.
  • What it costs hospitals to treat elderly patients has not remained consistent. The average hospital stay for elderly patients cost hospitals $9,800 in 2004—an increase of more than 25 percent over the 1997 average cost of $7,800.

These statistics are from the Healthcare Cost & Utilization Project (HCUP) 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. For more data, see Trends in Elderly Hospitalizations, 1997-2004, HCUP Statistical Brief No. 14 (PDF Help).

To speak with an AHRQ data expert, or for previous AHRQ News and Numbers, contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.

Current as of October 2006


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