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The purpose of the study is to compare characteristics of Aboriginal patient hospital admissions with non-Aboriginal admissions to the Ophthalmology Unit of the Royal Adelaide Hospital.A retrospective review of separation data was undertaken of hospital inpatient and day surgery admissions to the Royal Adelaide Hospital Ophthalmology Unit for the period July 1997 to January 2005.There were 11 944 admissions to the Ophthalmology Unit (including inpatients and day surgery cases), of which 273 (2.29%) were Aboriginal patients. Of the total, 2779 (23.3%) patients were admitted for at least 24 h (inpatients), and 9165 (76.7%) stayed less than 24 h (mostly day surgery cases). Aboriginal patients comprised 6.8% of inpatient admissions, and 0.9% of admissions less than 24 h. The average age of Aboriginal patients (52.9 years) was significantly less than non-Aboriginal patients (62.6 years; P < 0.0001). The median length of stay for Aboriginal patients was 5 days compared with 3 days in non-Aboriginal patients. Aboriginal patients were more likely to be from interstate (RR 10.3 P < 0.0001), more likely to have diabetes mellitus (RR 2.7 P < 0.0001), and more likely to be admitted for cataract surgery (RR 4.18 P < 0.0001) and lid disorders (RR 6.04 P < 0.0001) than non-Aboriginal patients.Aboriginal patients admitted to the Ophthalmology Unit were younger in age, more frequently from interstate, and had longer admissions than non-Aboriginal patients. These results have important implications for ophthalmic health-care planning.