Reasons for Hospitalization

Millions of people are hospitalized each year in the United States.
Millions of people are hospitalized each year in the United States. (Image: Hospital image by Raulmahón from

According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 35 million inpatient hospitalizations occurred in 2006. People require hospitalization for many reasons, including preventing and treating serious illnesses, infections and injuries, and obtaining advanced medical care. In addition, childbirth accounts for nearly 10 percent of hospitalizations in the United States each year.

Medical Procedures

Medical procedures are one reason people are hospitalized. Patients receiving procedures such as chemotherapy or radiation are often hospitalized. Other procedures that require hospitalization include diagnostic testing for emergency conditions, such as heart attack, stroke, or loss of consciousness. These diagnostic procedures include magnetic resonance imaging scans (MRI), computerized tomography scans (CAT scan), angiograms, laboratory tests, and fluid, heart and lung function monitoring. Children, among other things, require hospitalization for procedures such as insertion of ear tubes or removal of the tonsils.


Doctors might admit patients into the hospital for observation due to a worsening of a chronic disease or illness. Other reasons for hospitalization for observation include seizures, migraines, chest pain, fainting, dehydration, closed head injuries, and gastrointestinal problems. This type of hospitalization accounts for 25 percent of all hospital admissions. The length of stay for observation hospitalizations is usually 48 hours or less, as long as the patient's condition improves. People with mental illness, including severe depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, or drug addiction, sometimes require observational hospitalization. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, depression is the second leading cause of hospitalization for women under the age of 44.


Patients undergoing invasive surgical procedures require hospitalization. Examples of surgeries requiring the hospitalization of patients include coronary artery bypass, appendectomy, removal of a blood clot, and removal of the gallbladder. These are often emergency or urgent situations, and admission often occurs through the hospital's emergency department. Other types of surgery requiring hospitalization that are not necessarily acute emergencies include mastectomy, hysterectomy, and back surgery. These surgeries are usually scheduled in advance by patients and their physicians.

Childbirth and Pregnancy

According to the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the leading cause for hospitalization of adult women under the age of 44 is childbirth. In 2006, the most recent year for which the Centers for Disease Control has complete data, nearly 4.3 million births took place in the U.S. Of these, 99.1% took place in a hospital on an inpatient basis. Most hospitalizations for new mothers and their babies are 48 hours or less for a vaginal delivery and 96 hours or less for a cesarean section. Women having serious pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia or premature labor, might require hospitalization to delay the onset or progression of labor or to monitor the mother and the fetus.

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