Adverse Events Among Emergency Department Patients With Cardiovascular Conditions: A Multicenter Study

      Study objective

      We aim to determine incidence and type of adverse events (adverse outcomes related to emergency care) among emergency department (ED) patients discharged with recent-onset atrial fibrillation, acute heart failure, and syncope.


      This 5-year prospective cohort study included high-acuity adult patients discharged with the 3 sentinel diagnoses from 6 tertiary care Canadian EDs. We screened all ED visits for eligibility and performed telephone interviews 14 days postdischarge to identify flagged outcomes: death, hospital admission, return ED visit, health care provider visit, and new or worsening symptoms. We created case summaries describing index ED visit and flagged outcomes, and trained emergency physicians reviewed case summaries to identify adverse events. We reported adverse event incidence and rates with 95% confidence intervals and contributing factor themes.


      Among 4,741 subjects (mean age 70.2 years; 51.2% men), we observed 170 adverse events (3.6 per 100 patients; 95% confidence interval 3.1 to 4.2). Patients discharged with acute heart failure were most likely to experience adverse events (5.3%), followed by those with atrial fibrillation (2.0%) and syncope (0.8%). We noted variation in absolute adverse event rates across sites from 0.7 to 6.0 per 100 patients. The most common adverse event types were management issues, diagnostic issues, and unsafe disposition decisions. Frequent contributing factor themes included failure to recognize underlying causes and inappropriate management of dual diagnoses.


      Among adverse events after ED discharge for patients with these 3 sentinel cardiovascular diagnoses, we identified quality improvement opportunities such as strengthening dual diagnosis detection and evidence-based clinical practice guideline adherence.
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