(HealthDay News) — Nearly 1.4 million emergency department visits are made annually by patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRDs), with accidents and behavioral disturbances the most common reasons for emergency department visits, according to a research letter published online July 24 in JAMA Neurology.

Lauren B. Gerlach, DO, from the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional study using data on emergency department visits among older adults from the 2016 to 2019 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey to examine the characteristics of these visits.

The researchers found that an estimated 1,378,940 of the 20,359,190 annual emergency department visits by older adults were among patients with ADRDs. Those aged 85 years or older, female patients and those with medical co-morbidities more often had ADRD emergency department visits. Accidents and behavioral disturbances were common reasons for ADRD visits (7.9 and 7.4% respectively), which were twice as likely as among non-ADRD visits (adjusted rate ratios, 2.1 and 2.0, respectively). Diagnostic testing, including urinalysis and head computed tomography, was more common among ADRD visits than non-ADRD visits. Patients with ADRDs more often had antipsychotic administration (2.8 versus 1.1%), and they were less likely to receive opioid administration (16.5 versus 24.1%).

“Although the emergency department is an important care location for an increasing number of patients with ADRDs, our findings highlight the need for better ways to evaluate and manage ADRD care in outpatient settings to reduce potentially avoidable and harmful visits,” the authors write.

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