ED Visits for Diabetes on the Rise in the US

Emergency department (ED) visits by adults with diabetes increased by more than 25% since 2012, with the highest rates among Blacks and those aged over 65 years, a new data brief from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics shows.

In 2021, diabetes was the eighth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the brief, published online on December 19, 2023. Its frequency is increasing in young people, and increasing age is a risk factor for hospitalization.

The latest data show that in 2020-2021, the overall annual ED visit rate was 72.2 visits per 1000 adults with diabetes, with no significant difference in terms of sex (75.1 visits per 1000 women vs 69.1 visits per 1000 men). By race/ethnicity, Blacks had the highest rates, at 135.5 visits per 1000 adults, followed by Whites (69.9) and Hispanics (52.3). The rates increased with age for both women and men, and among the three race/ethnic groups.

Comorbidities Count

The most ED visits were made by patients with diabetes and two to four other chronic conditions (541.4 visits per 1000 visits). Rates for patients without other chronic conditions were the lowest (90.2).

Among individuals with diabetes aged 18-44 years, ED visit rates were the highest for those with two to four other chronic conditions (402.0) and lowest among those with five or more other conditions (93.8).

Among patients aged 45-64 years, ED visit rates were the highest for those with two to four other chronic conditions (526.4) and lowest for those without other conditions (87.7). In the 65 years and older group, rates were the highest for individuals with two to four other chronic conditions (605.2), followed by five or more conditions (217.7), one other condition (140.6), and no other conditions (36.5).

Notably, the ED visit rates for those with two to four or five or more other chronic conditions increased with age, whereas visits for those with no other chronic conditions or one other condition decreased with age.

Decade-Long Trend

ED visit rates among adults with diabetes increased throughout the past decade, from 48.6 visits per 1000 adults in 2012 to 74.9 per 1000 adults in 2021. Rates for those aged 65 and older were higher than all other age groups, increasing from 113.4 to 156.8. Increases were also seen among those aged 45-64 years (53.1 in 2012 to 89.2 in 2021) and 18-44 (20.9 in 2012 to 26.4 in 2016, then plateauing from 2016-2021).

Data are based on a sample of 4051 ED visits, representing about 18,238,000 average annual visits made by adults with diabetes to nonfederal, general, and short-stay hospitals during 2020-2021.

Taken together, these most recent estimates “show an increasing trend in rates by adults with diabetes in the ED setting,” the authors conclude.

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