Causes of hospitalisation before and after the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake

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On 6 April 2009, an earthquake struck L'Aquila. The San Salvatore Hospital was evacuated, and a field hospital was built. The study aimed to assess the epidemiologic impact of the earthquake through the analysis of patient population admitted to the field hospital during a 2-month period following the disaster. We retrospectively evaluated causes of hospitalisation and demographic data of patients admitted to (i) the Division of Internal Medicine and (ii) the Division of Emergency Medicine of the field hospital from 6 April, 2009 to 29 May, 2009. All data were compared with the admissions made at the same divisions of the San Salvatore Hospital during the same period of previous year. (i) Patient group (n = 102) and comparison group (n = 108). Mean patient age was higher, patients living in L'Aquila were more numerous, while mean length of stay was lower after than before the earthquake. Infectious diseases increased, while ‘other’ diseases decreased after the disaster both in admission and in discharge diagnoses. Gastroenterological diseases decreased with the earthquake but only in admission diagnoses. (ii) Patient group (n = 5255) and comparison group (n = 6564). Triage codes changed with the earthquake. Cardiovascular, psychiatric, gynaecological, infectious and chronic diseases increased, while pneumologic, gastroenterological, traumatic and ‘other’ diseases decreased after the quake. The number of hospitalised patients decreased with the tremor, while those discharged transferred to other hospitals and those who rejected hospitalisation increased. A natural disaster completely changes causes of hospitalisation in the Divisions of Internal and Emergency Medicine. These findings can be useful for the design of specific intervention programmes and for softening the detrimental effects of quakes.

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