Reports From the Field: Average hospital stays shorter, CDC reports

The 32.7 million patients in the nation’s hospitals in 2001 had a much shorter average stay (4.9 days) than patients in 1970, who were hospitalized for an average of 7.8 days, according to the National Hospital Discharge Survey from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The most dramatic decrease was for elderly patients, whose hospital stay in 2001 was 5.8 days, less than half of the 12.6 average stay in 1970.

In 2001, as in the previous year, the most frequent reason for hospitalization was heart disease. While the rate of hospitalization for most conditions has decreased, congestive heart failure (CHF) hospitalizations increased by 62% from 1980 to 2001, according to the report.

The report attributed the increase to success in treating more acute forms of heart disease, extending the life of many people and making it more likely they will develop a chronic heart problem such as CHF.

Cardiovascular procedures were performed on one-fifth of the men hospitalized in 2001 but only 10% of the women.

Other major reasons for hospitalization were psychoses, pneumonia, cancer, and fractures.

The report, conducted by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, includes data from all nonfederal short-stay hospitals in the United States. A copy of the report is available at www.cdc.gov.