Objective: To describe the epidemiology of US emergency department (ED) visits for bronchiolitis, including the characteristics of children presenting to the ED and the variability in bronchiolitis care in the ED.
Methods: Data were obtained from the 1992 to 2000 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Cases had International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification code 466 and were younger than 2 years. National estimates were obtained using assigned patient visit weights; 95% confidence intervals were calculated using the relative standard error of the estimate; analysis used chi2 and logistic regression.
Results: From 1992 to 2000, bronchiolitis accounted for approximately 1,868,000 ED visits for children younger than 2 years. Among this same age group, the overall rate was 26 (95% confidence interval 22-31) per 1000 US population and 31 (95% confidence interval 26-36) per 1000 ED visits. These rates were stable over the 9-year period. Comparing children with bronchiolitis to those presenting with other problems, children with bronchiolitis were more likely boys (61% vs. 53%; P = 0.01) and Hispanic (27% vs. 20%; P = 0.008). Therapeutic interventions varied and 19% were admitted to the hospital. The multivariate predictor for receiving systemic steroids was urgent/emergent status at triage (odds ratio 4.0, 1.9-8.4). Multivariate predictors for admission were Hispanic ethnicity (odds ratio 2.3, 1.1-5.0) and urgent/emergent status at triage (odds ratio 3.7, 2.0-6.9).
Conclusions: ED visit rates for bronchiolitis among children younger than 2 years were stable between 1992 and 2000. The observed ED practice variation demonstrates that children are receiving medications for which there is little supporting evidence. Boys and Hispanics are at-risk groups for presentation to the ED, and Hispanics are more likely to be hospitalized.