Repeated hospital admission is a serious problem for both the patient and the health care system. The life story of a patient repeatedly admitted for treatment of exacerbations of a chronic disease, such as diabetic ketoacidosis, can often be compared to Faulkner's family Sartoris. The Sartoris characters were wholly occupied in the pursuit of their painful decline and eventual demise. At the Johns Hopkins Hospital, 45 persons were identified who were repeatedly admitted to the medical service for diabetic ketoacidosis. Forty-two charts of "recidivist" patients and "non-recidivist" control patients matched for age and severity of disease were reviewed to determine factors that, if corrected, would prevent repeated admission. Case reports of three patients who were admitted an average of 11 times annually for several years are presented. Implications of the "Game of Sartoris" for the American teaching hospital are discussed.
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