After Unplanned Hospital Visit, Another Unpleasant Surprise

By Scott LaFee

January 15, 2020 7 min read

A Canadian study has found that among older adults, an unexpected hospital admission was associated with an increased risk of death within five years of the visit.

The study looked at data on 922,000 Canadians ages 66 and older between 2007 and 2017. Researchers found that 51% of those who died during the study had experienced an unplanned hospital admission, and of that group, 40% died within five years of the first admission.

In contrast, 13% of study participants who had a planned hospital stay died within five years, and 11% died within five years of an emergency department visit.

For participants who neither were admitted to a hospital nor visited the emergency department, only 3% died during the study.

The most common causes of death were cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Body of Knowledge

The big toe was once used by our tree-climbing ancestors for grasping. It is routinely used now in toe-to-thumb transplants.

Get Me That, Stat!

Every year, an estimated 48 million Americans get a foodborne illness; 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The riskiest to consume: seafood, which is responsible for 19 times as many infections per pound of consumption as dairy, and six times as many as vegetables.

Food tip: A hamburger should be cooked well-done; a steak can be medium. That's because the former is much more susceptible to having pathogens in the middle. Cook foods over 140 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure you're killing harmful bacteria.


40: Percentage of U.S. deaths that occurred in hospitals in 2003.

30: Percentage in 2017 (more people now dying at home).

Source: New England Journal of Medicine

Doc Talk

Cicatrization: the process of forming a scar.

Phobia of the Week

Sociophobia: fear of social evaluation (hey, no one's judging here).

Number Cruncher

A single fruit crepe with strawberry topping from the International House of Pancakes contains 460 calories, 189 from fat. It has 21 total grams of fat, or 32% of the recommended total fat intake for a 2,000-calorie daily diet.

It also contains 90 milligrams of cholesterol (30% recommended intake); 250 milligrams of sodium (10%); 65 grams of carbohydrates (22%); 3 grams of sugar and 6 grams of protein.

Best Medicine

Brian was a dedicated hypochondriac. One day he bumped into his doctor at the grocery store. The physician asked him he was doing.

"Doc, I've been meaning to tell you," he said. "Remember those voices I kept hearing in my head? I haven't heard them in over a week!"

"That's great," the doctor replied. "I'm so happy for you!"

But Brian looked skeptical and said: "There's nothing wonderful about it. I'm afraid my hearing is starting to go."

Hypochondriac's Guide

The Truman Show delusion, or Truman syndrome, was coined by a psychiatrist and neurophilosopher after the 1998 movie "The Truman Show," starring Jim Carrey. It describes people who believe their lives are staged reality shows or that they are being watched by unseen cameras. The condition is not an officially recognized disorder.


"I have to exercise in the morning before my brain figures out what I'm doing." — Marsha Doble

Medical History

This week in 1827, the School Committee for the city of Boston voted to require public school students to show they'd had a smallpox vaccination prior to school entrance. Certificates for free vaccination were issued to the board of health when necessary. The initiative came three decades after Edward Jenner's discovery of a method to immunize against smallpox. Massachusetts passed the first school vaccination law in 1855, followed by New York (1862) and Connecticut (1872).

Perishable Publications

Many, if not most, published research papers have titles that defy comprehension. They use specialized jargon, complex words and opaque phrases like "nonlinear dynamics." Sometimes they don't, and yet they're still hard to figure out. Here's an actual title of an actual published research study: "Patient Preference for Waxed or Unwaxed Dental Floss."

An Air Force dentist recruited 100 volunteers to sample brands of similar-appearing waxed and unwaxed dental floss. The cohort preferred waxed 79% to 21%. A second group was tested with similar preferences. Then, because science always has more questions, the dentist tested mint-flavored waxed floss versus plain waxed, with 56% favoring mint.

But the findings, published in the Feb. 1, 1990, issue of the Journal of Periodontology, may be suspect, since most of the participants claimed to floss regularly.


Q: How many wisdom teeth do people have?

A: There is no fixed number, but there is a limit. It's possible for people to have one, two, three, four or none at all. Wisdom teeth serve no useful purpose in the modern diet and appear to be evolving themselves into oblivion. Thousands of years ago, however, when human ancestors "enjoyed" a much tougher, more fibrous diet, the number of wisdom teeth might have reached 12.

Sum Body

Your digestive system consists of 10 organs, top to bottom:

1. Salivary glands.

2. Pharynx.

3. Esophagus.

4. Stomach.

5. Small intestine.

6. Large intestine.

7. Liver.

8. Gallbladder.

9. Pancreas.

10. Rectum.

Last Words

"My troubles are all over. And I am home." — American author and animal rights activist Cleveland Amory (1917-1998), quoting lines from Anna Sewall's novel "Black Beauty." Amory was buried at his Texas ranch, also called Black Beauty.

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: DarkoStojanovic at Pixabay

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