New Report Shows Current Patterns of Hospitalization in the United States

Hospital Stays Much Shorter Now than 30 Years Ago

For Release: Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 458-4800


2001 National Hospital Discharge Survey. Advance Data No. 332. 18 pp. (PHS) 2003-1250. pdf icon[PDF – 1.2 MB]

The 32.7 million patients in the nation’s hospitals in 2001 had a much shorter stay on average (4.9 days) than patients hospitalized in 1970 (7.8 days). Over the past three decades, the average length of a hospital stay dropped for all patients, except children, with the most dramatic decrease experienced by elderly patients whose hospital stay in 2001 (5.8 days) was less than half of what it had been in 1970 (12.6 days).

In 2001, most inpatients stayed in the hospital for 3 days or less, 27 percent stayed for 4 to 7 days, and only 16 percent stayed longer than a week, according to a new report, “2001 National Hospital Discharge Survey,” from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The annual hospital survey collects national data on discharges from non-Federal short-stay hospitals in the United States.

In 2001, as in earlier years, the most frequent reason for hospitalization was heart disease, accounting for 4.3 million discharges. While the rate of hospitalization for most conditions has decreased over the past two decades, one condition—congestive heart failure—increased by 62 percent for those 65 and over from 1980 to 2001. This increase reflects the success through drugs and surgery in treating more acute forms of heart disease, such as heart attacks, thus extending the life of many elderly people and making it more likely they will develop a chronic heart problem like congestive heart failure.

Elderly patients made up over 38 percent of the discharges, and used 46 percent of all inpatient days, even though they comprised only 12 percent of the population.

Cardiovascular conditions were associated with a significant portion of the 41 million procedures performed on hospital inpatients in 2001. For men, one-fifth of all procedures were cardiovascular; for women, only 10 percent were cardiovascular. Hospitals performed a million procedures to remove coronary artery obstructions and insert stents, 1.2 million cardiac catheterizations and almost 2 million arteriography and angiocardiography procedures. Just over 300,000 inpatients had coronary artery bypass graft procedures.

Other major reasons for hospitalization were psychoses (1.6 million discharges), pneumonia (1.3 million), cancer (1.2 million), and fractures (1 million). Nearly one-fifth of the hospitalizations for women, 3.8 million, were for childbirth. About a quarter of the 25 million procedures women experienced were obstetrical.

The National Hospital Discharge Survey is conducted by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics and provides the most up-to-date information on hospitalization in the US. This report can be found on the CDC/NCHS web site.


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