Adolescent health care in a pediatric emergency department

M Melzer-Lange, P S Lye
Annals of Emergency Medicine 1996, 27 (5): 633-7

STUDY OBJECTIVE: We examined the use of the pediatric emergency department of an urban children's hospital by adolescents. This study included visits by all adolescents aged 13 to 18 years in a 1-week period from each season during 1992.

RESULTS: The ED saw 426 adolescents, representing approximately 15% of the total ED visits. Fifty percent of these patients were male. More than half of the patients were black; a few were members of other minority groups. Eighteen percent had emergency, 60% urgent, and 21% nonurgent conditions. Forty-three percent of the patients came to the ED between 3 PM and 11 PM. Injuries accounted for 47% of male visits and 42% of female visits. Approximately half of the injuries resulted from violent events. Twenty-seven percent of the visits were for exacerbation of a chronic illness such as asthma or diabetes. The most common reason for adolescent female visits was gynecologic problems. Injury was the most common reason for adolescent male visits. Only 27% of the adolescents lived in a two-parent home. In 16% of the cases, the adolescents were treated without consent. Nineteen percent of the adolescents were uninsured, and nearly 50% were publicly insured.

CONCLUSION: Issues of violence, consent, and insurance present problems for many adolescents in the pediatric ED. Injuries, particularly those related to violent events, are cause for many adolescent visits. ED staff members should develop plans to care for the complex psychosocial and medical problems of adolescents.

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