Children requiring psychiatric consultation in the pediatric emergency department: epidemiology, resource utilization, and complications

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2006 Feb;22(2):85-9. doi: 10.1097/01.pec.0000199568.94758.6e.


Methods: A cohort of children younger than 18 years presenting to an urban pediatric emergency department (PED) who underwent psychiatric consultation was analyzed. A standardized data collection sheet was prospectively completed and included: patient characteristics, extent of medical evaluation and findings, ancillary diagnostic studies, resources utilized, dangerous behaviors, and disposition.

Results: Two hundred ten patients required psychiatric evaluation. Median age was 14 years; 51.9% were boys; 71.9% had a past psychiatric history; 39.0% had prior psychiatric admission(s), and 40.5% were on psychiatric medications. The admission rate was 49.5%. Patients spent a median of 5.7 hours in the PED. Hospital police monitored 51.9% patients. Forty-five patients had 91 dangerous behaviors. Those patients presenting with a complaint of aggressive behavior (P = 0.00006), a past psychiatric history (P = 0.003), or a history of prior psychiatric hospitalization (P = 0.005) were more likely to have dangerous behaviors. Two hundred nine patients underwent a complete medical evaluation, and 207 were considered medically cleared. Patients who had diagnostic evaluations for medically indicated reasons were significantly more likely to have abnormal results than those requested by the psychiatric consultant for screening purposes (43.6% vs. 9.2%; relative risk, 2.33; 95% confidence interval, 1.33-4.08) but were not statistically more likely to result in medical intervention (5.4% vs. 0%, P = 0.243).

Conclusions: PED patients requiring psychiatric consultation and psychiatric admission had a prolonged PED stay and a high incidence of dangerous behaviors requiring intervention. History and physical examination adequately identified medical illness. Laboratory evaluation obtained for psychiatric transfer or admission purposes was of low yield.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Emergency Services, Psychiatric / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / complications
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / therapy
  • Prospective Studies