Non-specific complaints at emergency department presentation result in unclear diagnoses and lengthened hospitalization: a prospective observational study.

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Non-specific complaints at emergency department presentation result in unclear diagnoses and lengthened hospitalization: a prospective observational study.

Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med. 2018 Jul 16;26(1):60

Authors: Sauter TC, Capaldo G, Hoffmann M, Birrenbach T, Hautz SC, Kämmer JE, Exadaktylos AK, Hautz WE

Abstract
BACKGROUND: Up to 20% of patients admitted to an emergency department present with non-specific complaints. Retrospective studies suggest an increased risk of misdiagnosis and hospital admission for these patients, but prospective comparisons of the outcomes of emergency patients with non-specific complaints versus specific complaints are lacking.
METHODS: All consecutive patients ≥18 years of age admitted to any internal medicine ward at Bern University Hospital via the emergency department from August 15th 2015 to December 7th 2015 were prospectively included and followed up upon. Patients with non-specific complaints were compared against those with specific complaints regarding the quality of their emergency department diagnosis, length of hospital stay and in-hospital mortality.
RESULTS: Seven hundred and-eleven patients, 165 (23.21%) with non-specific complaints and 546 with specific complaints, were included in this study. No differences between patient groups regarding age, gender or initial severity of the medical problem (deducted from triage category and treatment in a resuscitation bay) were found. Patients with non-specific complaints received more unspecific diagnoses (30.3% vs. 23.1%, p = 0.001, OR = 1.82 [95% CI 1.159-2.899]), were hospitalized significantly longer (Median = 6.51 (IQR = 5.85) vs. 5.22 (5.83) days, p = 0.025, d = 0.2) but did not have a higher mortality than patients with specific complaints (7.3% vs. 3.7%, p = 0.087, OR 1.922 [95% CI 0.909-4.065]).
CONCLUSIONS: Non-specific complaints in patients admitted to an emergency department result in low-quality diagnoses and lengthened hospitalization, despite the patients being comparable to patients with specific complaints at admission.

PMID: 30012186 [PubMed - in process]

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