Circadian Pattern of Emergency Calls: Implications for ED Organization

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A circadian variation has been shown in the onset of acute medical diseases and we postulate that there is a circadian variation in emergency calls. We reviewed the 20,858 emergency calls addressed to the Emergency Coordinating Unit of the Hospital of Ferrara, Italy, from January 1 to December 31, 1998. Precise determination of the time of calls was available from the recordings. Total calls and subgroups by different diseases were categorized into 24 one-hour increments and analyzed for circadian rhythmicity by applying a partial Fourier series. A circadian variation was found for all subgroups, except for alcoholic intoxication. There was a peak frequency of calls in the morning hours for cardiologic, respiratory, and neurologic disease. There was a peak frequency of calls in the afternoon for trauma, neoplastic diseases, and acute poisoning. Organization of quantity and quality of Emergency Department (ED) staff should take into account the increased demand of specific facilities during certain hours of the day. (Am J Emerg Med 2002;20:282-286. Copyright 2002, Elsevier Science (USA). All rights reserved.)

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