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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, Volume 20, Issue 2, March 2019, Pages 250-255.

The published version is available at Copyright © Mechanic et al.


Introduction: In an age of increasing scrutiny of each hospital admission, emergency department (ED) observation has been identified as a low-cost alternative. Prior studies have shown admission rates for syncope in the United States to be as high as 70%. However, the safety and utility of substituting ED observation unit (EDOU) syncope management has not been well studied. The objective of this study was to evaluate the safety of EDOU for the management of patients presenting to the ED with syncope and its efficacy in reducing hospital admissions.

Methods: This was a prospective before-and-after cohort study of consecutive patients presenting with syncope who were seen in an urban ED and were either admitted to the hospital, discharged, or placed in the EDOU. We first performed an observation study of syncope management and then implemented an ED observation-based management pathway. We identified critical interventions and 30-day outcomes. We compared proportions of admissions and adverse events rates with a chisquared or Fisher’s exact test.

Results: In the “before” phase, 570 patients were enrolled, with 334 (59%) admitted and 27 (5%) placed in the EDOU; 3% of patients discharged from the ED had critical interventions within 30 days and 10% returned. After the management pathway was introduced, 489 patients were enrolled; 34% (p<0.001) of pathway patients were admitted while 20% were placed in the EDOU; 3% (p=0.99) of discharged patients had critical interventions at 30 days and 3% returned (p=0.001).

Conclusion: A focused syncope management pathway effectively reduces hospital admissions and adverse events following discharge and returns to the ED. [West J Emerg Med. 2019;20(2)250–255.]

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