Background: There is a lack of evidence to explain why patients with dementia are admitted to a general hospital. Methods: Main reasons for hospitalisation were investigated in all patients admitted to a multi-ethnic general hospital during 2002–2007, by analysis of type of admission and primary diagnosis on admission. Anonymised data from the Hospital Activity Analysis Register was used to trace these patients; 505 were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease (AD), 283 with vascular dementia (VD) and 1,773 patients were classified as unspecified dementia (UnD). Logistic regression analysis was used to compare these groups to 53,123 age-matched controls. Statistical significance of p < 0.001 was accepted. Results: More dementia patients were admitted as emergency cases compared to controls (AD = 95.8%, VD = 95.4%, UnD = 96.7%, controls = 54.4%; p < 0.001 for all comparisons). The proportion of patients admitted for dementia as their primary diagnosis was small (AD = 5.9%, VD = 10.6%, UnD = 6.0%). Primary diagnoses such as syncope and collapse, bronchopneumonia, urinary tract infection and dehydration were more frequent in all dementia patients than controls. Conclusion: Dementia patients are frequently admitted as emergency cases, but dementia itself is often not the primary diagnosis. Earlier detection of the specific conditions mentioned above may reduce emergency hospital admissions amongst dementia patients.
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