The epidemiology of emergency medical services use by children: an analysis of the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey

Manish N Shah, Jeremy T Cushman, Colleen O Davis, Jeffrey J Bazarian, Peggy Auinger, Bruce Friedman
Prehospital Emergency Care 2008, 12 (3): 269-76

OBJECTIVE: There is an absence of nationally representative data describing pediatric patients who use emergency medical services (EMS) and the factors associated with EMS use by children. This study characterizes pediatric emergency department (ED) visits for which the patient arrived by EMS and identifies factors associated with those visits using a nationally representative database.

METHODS: A secondary analysis of the ED component of the 1997-2000 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey was performed. The dependent variable was the mode of arrival to the ED (EMS vs. not EMS), and independent variables were grouped into four domains: demographic, clinical, system, and service characteristics. Bivariate analyses and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted.

RESULTS: There were 110.9 million ED visits by children aged<19 years between 1997 and 2000. Pediatric patients constituted 27.3% of all ED visits during this time, and 7.9 million (7.1%) of these patients arrived via EMS. Pediatric patients represented 13% of all EMS transports. The annual EMS utilization rate by children was 26 per 1,000, compared with 66 per 1,000 in the adult population (p<0.001). Sixteen percent of children transported by EMS were admitted to the hospital. Sixty-two percent of pediatric patients arriving at the ED by EMS were transported as a result of injury or poisoning. Characteristics significantly associated with arrival by EMS in the final multivariate model included demographic (age, African American race, urban residence), clinical (need for greater immediacy of care, illnesses associated with certain diagnoses), and service (greater number of diagnostic services) variables.

CONCLUSIONS: Pediatric patients transported by EMS are more likely to have injuries and poisoning, and have higher-acuity illness than those arriving at the ED by other means. The epidemiology of pediatric EMS use may have important operational, training, and public health implications and requires further study.

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