Differences in antibiotic prescribing patterns for children younger than five years in the three major outpatient settings

J Pediatr. 2004 Feb;144(2):200-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2003.10.053.


Objectives: To perform a comprehensive analysis of the use of antibiotics in three major sites for outpatient care: private office-based clinics, emergency departments (ED), and hospital-based clinics.

Study design: Data from the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS) and National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS) were used to determine visit rates and antibiotic prescribing patterns for the three major outpatient care settings from 1994 to 2000 for children <5 years of age.

Results: Antibiotic prescription rates declined from 1405 to 1088 per 1000 children over the study years (P=.032) [correction]. Significant declines in antibiotic prescriptions were noted in both the office-based setting and ED: 1119 to 841 (P=.049) in the office-based setting and 237 to 198 antibiotic prescriptions per 1000 children in the ED (P=.003) [correction]. Sites of care differed markedly with white children receiving 82.5%, 14.3%, and 3.2% of antibiotics in the office-based settings, ED, and hospital-based clinics, respectively, compared with 60%, 31%, and 9% for black children (P<.001). However, total visits, visits resulting in a diagnosis of otitis media, and antibiotic prescribing rates were similar for white and black children during the latter study years.

Conclusions: There has been a decline in antibiotic prescribing in children <5 years of age, which was most notable in office-based and emergency department settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care Facilities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Utilization / trends
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Humans
  • Office Visits
  • Otitis Media / diagnosis
  • Otitis Media / drug therapy
  • Outpatient Clinics, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Penicillins / therapeutic use
  • Pharyngitis / diagnosis
  • Pharyngitis / drug therapy
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends
  • United States
  • Urinary Tract Infections / diagnosis
  • Urinary Tract Infections / drug therapy


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Penicillins