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New AHCPR report provides detailed information on hospital use and costs in the United States

The most common reasons for hospital admission in the United States are births (3.8 million admissions), followed by coronary atherosclerosis (1.4 million admissions), pneumonia (1.2 million admissions), congestive heart failure (990,000 admissions), and heart attack (774,000 admissions), according to a new report published by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research.

The report—which is based on 1996 data—is the latest in a series of statistical publications from AHCPR showing why Americans are hospitalized, how long they stay in the hospital, which procedures they undergo, and how much the charges are for their stays. It presents an in-depth profile of inpatient care and answers many key questions about how specific conditions are treated in hospitals and the resulting outcomes.

According to the report, the most expensive conditions, or diagnoses, treated in U.S. hospitals in 1996 were spinal cord injury ($56,800 average charges per hospital admission), infant respiratory distress syndrome ($56,600), low birthweight ($50,300), leukemia ($46,700), and heart valve disorders ($45,300). The figures are average charges for the entire stay.

Overall, patients stayed in the hospital an average of 5 days. But stays involving premature birth, with problems such as low birthweight and slow growth of the fetus, averaged 23 days. Stays because of infant respiratory distress syndrome averaged 22 days, and patients with spinal cord injuries remained in the hospital an average of 16 days.

The estimates are based on all-payer data from AHCPR's Nationwide Inpatient Sample, which approximates a 20-percent sample of U.S. community hospitals. The database is part of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project, a Federal-State-industry partnership to make high-quality hospital data available for research purposes.

Hospital Inpatient Statistics, 1996 (AHCPR Publication No. 99-0034) is available from the AHCPR Clearinghouse.

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