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Cleaners wipe down a bed at the new Bridgepoint Hospital in Toronto on April 14, 2013.

Matthew Sherwood/The Globe and Mail

While childbirth is the leading reason for in-patient surgery and hospitalization in Canada, overnight hospital stays linked to aging population – including knee and hip replacements, heart attack and failure, pneumonia and respiratory disease – are on the rise, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information.

The CIHI annual Inpatient Hospitalizations, Surgeries and Childbirth Indicators report, released Tuesday, found that overall the number of hospitalizations across the country has declined steadily over the last five years, with approximately three million in-patient hospitalizations, including around one million surgeries, in Canada last year.

The decline is in large part due to the availability of more out-of-hospital services and procedures, such as birthing centres and outpatient cataract surgeries, said Greg Webster, director of the CIHI's Acute and Ambulatory Care Information Services.

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The increase in hip and knee replacements is attributed to waiting-time reduction strategies, the aging population and a trend among active Canadians over 40 seeking joint replacements earlier to stave off long periods of inactivity, Mr. Webster said.

Data shows that in-patient hospital stays related to the aging population are on the rise. The number of hospitalizations among 85- to 89-year-olds, for example, has risen 14 per cent for heart failure, 19 per cent for pneumonia and 17 per cent for respiratory disease since 2008, according to CIHI statistics.

Top 5 reasons for inpatient hospitalizations in 2012–2013:

SOURCE: Canadian Institute for Health Information

Patients with more chronic conditions also tend to stay in hospital longer, the report concluded. Whereas women who give birth are discharged after about two days, patients hospitalized with respiratory disease spent an average of eight days, and those with heart failure were in for more than nine days.

Mr. Webster said that although an aging population could put a lot more pressure on the health-care system, healthier lifestyles, advances in medication and home-monitoring systems can help people with chronic conditions avoid hospital and stay home longer.

"There's, I think, an increased emphasis on looking for opportunities for providing care in the home setting," he said. "Patients have said this can be better for them as long as they have the right supports available and good monitoring."

Top 5 reasons for inpatient surgeries in 2012–2013

SOURCE: Canadian Institute for Health Information

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