HealthDay News – Seniors treated in an emergency department for illness or injury are more likely to become disabled and less physically agile over the next 6 months, according to a study published online in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

The new study follows up on previous research that found older adults suffer from disability and declines in physical performance after they’re hospitalized. This time, the researchers tracked 754 patients 65 and older over 14 years, including some who’d been treated in the emergency department and some who hadn’t.

The researchers found that those who’d been discharged from the emergency department were more likely to be disabled, to be living in a nursing home, or to have died over the next 6 months, compared to those who didn’t go to the emergency department.

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“We know that if older persons go to the hospital and are admitted, they are at increased risk of disability and functional decline,” study author Justine Nagurney, MD, of the Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, said in a hospital news release. “This study shows that patients discharged from the emergency department, meaning that they were deemed well enough to return home, are also at risk for functional decline. We should be doing something to address that.”

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Nagurney JM, Fleischman W, Han L, Leo-Summers L, Allore HG, Gill TM. Emergency department visits without hospitalization are associated with functional decline in older persons. Abstract presented at the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine annual meeting; May 2016; New Orleans, LA.