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Emergency department observation units (EDOUs) represent an opportunity to efficiently manage patients with common conditions requiring short-term hospital care. Understanding which patients are ultimately admitted to the hospital after care in an EDOU may enhance patient selection for EDOU care.We conducted a retrospective analysis of US emergency department visits resulting in admission to observation status using the National Hospital Ambulatory Care Survey (NHAMCS) from 2009 to 2010, a nationally representative sample. We used survey-weighted logistic regression to identify predictors at the patient level, visit level, and hospital level for inpatient hospital admission after EDOU care.Between 2009 and 2010, there were 4.65 million patient visits (95% confidence interval [CI], 3.68-5.63) to EDOUs in the United States. Of those evaluated in an EDOU, 40.4% (95% CI, 34.5%-46.6%) were admitted to the hospital after EDOU care. Progressively older patient age was a strong predictor of hospital admission: patients age older than 65 years were more than 5 times more likely to be admitted than patients age younger than 18 years (odds ratio, 5.36; 95% CI, 2.26-12.73). The only other visit-level factor associated with admission was a reason for visit of chest pain; this was associated with a lower rate of hospital admission (odds ratio, 0.61; 95% CI, 0.41-0.91).Across the United States in 2009 to 2010, older patient age was a strong predictor of admission after EDOU care, suggesting that older patients are more likely to require inpatient hospital services after EDOU care than younger patients.We examine the rate and predictors of emergency department observation unit (EDOU) failure (subsequent hospital admission) using the National Hospital Ambulatory Care Survey for years 2009 to 2010.There is an increasing rate of observation unit failure, 40% of those admitted to an EDOU were subsequently admitted during the study period.Increasing age and diagnoses other than chest pain were associated with increased rates of EDOU failure.