Randomized clinical trial of an emergency department observation syncope protocol versus routine inpatient admission

Benjamin C. Sun, Heather McCreath, Li Jung Liang, Stephen Bohan, Christopher Baugh, Luna Ragsdale, Sean O. Henderson, Carol Clark, Aveh Bastani, Emmett Keeler, Ruopeng An, Carol M. Mangione

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study objective Older adults are frequently hospitalized from the emergency department (ED) after an episode of unexplained syncope. Current admission patterns are costly, with little evidence of benefit. We hypothesize that an ED observation syncope protocol will reduce resource use without adversely affecting patient-oriented outcomes. Methods This randomized trial at 5 EDs compared an ED observation syncope protocol to inpatient admission for intermediate-risk adults (≥50 years) presenting with syncope or near syncope. Primary outcomes included inpatient admission rate and length of stay. Secondary outcomes included 30-day and 6-month serious outcomes after hospital discharge, index and 30-day hospital costs, 30-day quality-of-life scores, and 30-day patient satisfaction. Results Study staff randomized 124 patients. Observation resulted in a lower inpatient admission rate (15% versus 92%; 95% confidence interval [CI] difference -88% to -66%) and shorter hospital length of stay (29 versus 47 hours; 95% CI difference -28 to -8). Serious outcome rates after hospital discharge were similar for observation versus admission at 30 days (3% versus 0%; 95% CI difference -1% to 8%) and 6 months (8% versus 10%; 95% CI difference -13% to 9%). Index hospital costs in the observation group were $629 (95% CI difference -$1,376 to -$56) lower than in the admission group. There were no differences in 30-day quality-of-life scores or in patient satisfaction. Conclusion An ED observation syncope protocol reduced the primary outcomes of admission rate and hospital length of stay. Analyses of secondary outcomes suggest reduction in index hospital costs, with no difference in safety events, quality of life, or patient satisfaction. Our findings suggest that an ED observation syncope protocol can be replicated and safely reduce resource use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)167-175
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Emergency Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Randomized clinical trial of an emergency department observation syncope protocol versus routine inpatient admission'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this