Context: The place where children with complex chronic conditions are dying may be shifting toward residential homes due to the evolving epidemiology of life-threatening childhood conditions, advances in home-based medical technology, and changes in attitudes about pediatric palliative care and hospice services.
Objectives: To determine whether pediatric deaths attributed to complex chronic conditions are increasingly occurring in the home and to assess race and ethnicity disparities in the location of death.
Design, setting, and participants: Retrospective national-level case series drawn from the National Center for Health Statistics' Multiple Cause of Death Files spanning 1989-2003. Participants included all deceased individuals aged 19 years or younger with a complex chronic condition excluding injury and noncomplex chronic conditions (as classified by International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision or International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision).
Main outcome measure: Place where death occurred.
Results: Among the 22.1% of deaths (198 160 of 896 509 total deaths) attributed to a complex chronic condition between 1989 and 2003, the percentage of individuals dying at home increased significantly (P<.001) over time for infants (aged <1 year) (4.9% in 1989 and 7.3% in 2003); 1- to 9-year-olds (17.9% and 30.7%); and for 10- to 19-year-olds (18.4% and 32.2%). Adjusting for decedent characteristics, the odds of dying at home increased significantly each year (odds ratio, 1.04; 95% confidence interval, 1.03-1.04) and were reduced among both black and Hispanic decedents (odds ratio, 0.50; 95% confidence interval, 0.48-0.52 and odds ratio, 0.52; 95% confidence interval, 0.50-0.54, respectively) compared with white decedents.
Conclusions: Children who die with underlying complex chronic conditions increasingly are dying at home. Racial and ethnic disparities regarding place of death may represent important limitations and opportunities for improvement in the current systems of pediatric chronic and palliative care.