Purpose: Reviews adult emergency department (ED) visits for patients age 65 and older during one calendar year; determine the prevalence of weight classifications; identifies trends between BMI and discharge/admitting diagnoses, vital signs, and severity index.Methods: The electronic medical records system and data from the ED billing service was reviewed for an urban academic institution with an annual volume of 125,000 for patients age > 65. Using a random number table, a retrospective cohort of 328 elderly patients was selected for review, representing a convenience sample of 2.6% of elderly ED visits. Body Mass Index (BMI) was calculated, using the Center for Disease Control (CDC) formula with underweight (<18.5), normal (18.5 - 24.9), overweight (25 - 29.9), and obese (≥30). Results: The majority of the cohort in this study was African-American and Hispanic (60% and 27% respectively), and there were a higher percentage of females than males (60% and 40% respectively). Approximately 29% of the patients were classified as normal weight, 35% classified as overweight, and 36% as obese. The older the patient, the more likely that patient belonged to a lower weight classification (p < 0.01). Those presenting with neurological, pulmonary or gastrointestinal complaints were more likely to be of a higher weight classification (p < 0.05). Patients who were hypertensive on arrival to the ED were more likely to be in a higher weight classification (p < 0.01). Conclusion: Those patients with a higher weight classification had a strong correlation with selected abnormal vital signs and disease presentations. EDs are important sources of care for the elderly. EDs can serve as a previously untapped resource for screening and early referral exercise programs aimed at improving physical function/ functional status and quality of life in the elderly patient population.
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