Outcomes of patients admitted to hospital medical units with back pain

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Abstract

Background: Hospital admissions for patients with back pain are increasing. Despite their significant contribution to the healthcare burden, they remain largely unstudied. Aim: To investigate the management and clinical outcomes of patients with acute back pain admitted to hospital under general medicine units when compared to a rheumatology unit. Methods: A 36-month retrospective, observational study on patients presenting to the emergency department with back pain who were subsequently admitted to one of three general medicine units (GM) or a rheumatology unit (RU). Differences in patient demographics, management and clinical outcomes were assessed using Chi-squared tests for categorical variables and Kruskall–Wallis tests for continuous variables. Multivariate associations of two primary outcomes, length of stay (LOS) and complications were examined using generalised estimating equations. Results: Data from 712 admissions from 594 patients across the four inpatient units were used for this study. Common discharge diagnoses were musculoskeletal/non-specific back pain (41%), disc-related illness (22%), vertebral fracture (14%) and sciatica (14%). Non-English speaking background (NESB), age ≥ 80 years, disc-related disease, vertebral fracture and sciatica were statistically significantly associated with both increased LOS and complications. The presence of comorbidities was associated with more complications. GM admission was associated with a longer LOS and more complications than RU admission. Conclusion: Multiple factors associated with an increased LOS and complications were identified, including older patients and patients of NESB. Given the observed variations in back pain management between general and specialty units, strategies to standardise care should be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)316-322
Number of pages7
JournalInternal Medicine Journal
Volume49
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019

Keywords

  • back pain
  • emergency department
  • epidemiology
  • hospital admission

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