Background: Early discharge of low-risk patients with acute myocardial infarction is feasible and can be achieved at no additional risk of adverse events. We aimed to identify the extent to which countries have taken advantage of the opportunity for early discharge. Methods: The study population consisted of 54 174 patients enrolled in GUSTO-I, GUSTO-III, and ASSENT-2 studies (enrolment period 1990-98) in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and Poland. We identified patients with uncomplicated acute myocardial infarction who were eligible for early discharge on the basis of previously established criteria, and assessed the extent to which these patients were discharged early - defined as discharged alive within 4 days of admission. The economic consequences (defined as potentially unnecessary hospital days consumed per 100 patients enrolled) were also investigated. Findings: Patients in all European countries had significantly longer stays than did those from non-European countries. Over the study period, the number of eligible patients discharged on or before day 4 increased in the USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Despite this increase, no more than 40% of patients who were eligible for early discharge were actually discharged early. The rate of early discharge of eligible patients was consistently low (<2%) in Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and Poland. In ASSENT-2, which is the most recent trial in this study, the number of potentially unnecessary hospital days (per 100 patients enrolled) ranged from 65 in New Zealand to 839 in Germany. Interpretation: Despite more than a decade of research, there is still a lot of variation between countries in international length-of-stay patterns in acute myocardial infarction. The potential for more efficient discharge of low-risk patients exists in all countries investigated, but was especially evident in the European countries included in the study (Belgium, France, Germany, Spain, and Poland).
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