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Arch Emerg Med. 1992 June; 9(2): 230–238.
PMCID: PMC1285866

Irregular discharge against medical advice from the accident and emergency department--a cause for concern.


An irregular discharge (ID) from the A&E department is an undesirable, but relatively common occurrence. A prospective study was undertaken to quantify the size of the problem and by arranging a subsequent review of the patient, to determine the clinical outcome. Over a 3-month period, 139 patients (0.73%) of attendances) took their own discharge against medical advice. A further 566 patients (3.03% of attendances) left prematurely prior to any medical assessment (DNW). Attenders irregularly discharged, often with serious untreated conditions. A high proportion were intoxicated with alcohol (65.5%). Attempted follow up proved difficult and incomplete. Patients with serious conditions appeared to return spontaneously for further care. Methods of minimizing the numbers of patients who take an ID or DNW are discussed. Taken together, the numbers of these attenders leaving prematurely, can be used as a valid performance indicator of the delivery of health care in the A/E department.

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Selected References

These references are in PubMed. This may not be the complete list of references from this article.
  • Gibson G, Maiman LA, Chase AM. Walk-out patients in the hospital emergency department. JACEP. 1978 Feb;7(2):47–50. [PubMed]
  • Ochitill HN, Havassy B, Byrd RC, Peters R. Leaving a cardiology service against medical advice. J Chronic Dis. 1985;38(1):79–84. [PubMed]
  • Selbst SM. Leaving against medical advice. Pediatr Emerg Care. 1986 Dec;2(4):266–268. [PubMed]
  • Wartman SA, Taggart MP, Palm E. Emergency room leavers: a demographic and interview profile. J Community Health. 1984 Summer;9(4):261–268. [PubMed]
  • Weissberg MP, Heitner M, Lowenstein SR, Keefer G. Patients who leave without being seen. Ann Emerg Med. 1986 Jul;15(7):813–817. [PubMed]

Articles from Archives of Emergency Medicine are provided here courtesy of BMJ Publishing Group