Motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) are the second most common cause of non-fatal injury among U.S. adults age 65 years and older. However, the frequency of emergency department (ED) visits, disposition, pain locations, and pain severity for older adults experiencing MVCs have not previously been described. The authors sought to determine these characteristics using information from two nationally representative data sets.
Data from the 2008 Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS), and the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS), were used to estimate MVC-related ED visits and ED disposition for patients 65 years and older. NHAMCS data from 2004 through 2008 were used to further characterize MVC-related ED visits.
In 2008, the NEDS contained 28,445,564 patient visits, of which 760,356 (2.7%) were due to MVCs. The NHAMCS contained 34,134 patient visits, of which 1,038 (3.0%) were due to MVCs. National estimates of MVC-related ED visits by patients 65 years and older in 2008 are 226,000 (95% CI = 210,000 to 240,000), for NEDS and 270,000 (95% CI = 185,000 to 355,000) for NHAMCS. Most older adults with MVC-related ED visits were sent home from the ED (proportion discharged NEDS 78%, 95% CI 78% to 79%; NHAMCS 77%, 95% CI 66% to 86%). During the years 2004 through 2008, of MVC-related ED visits by older adults not resulting in hospital admission, moderate or severe pain was reported in 61% (95% CI = 52% to 70%) of those with recorded pain scores. Older patients sent home after MVC-related ED visits were less likely than younger patients to receive analgesics (35%, 95% CI 26% to 43% vs. 47%, 95% CI 44% to 50%) during their ED evaluations, or as discharge prescriptions (52%, 95% CI 41% to 62% vs. 65%, 95% CI = 61% to 68%).
In 2008, adults age 65 years or older made more than 200,000 MVC-related ED visits. Approximately 80% of these visits were discharged home from the ED, but the majority of discharged patients reported moderate or severe pain. Further studies of pain and functional outcomes in this population are needed.