Objective: To describe the national scope and magnitude of outpatient adverse drug events (ADEs) that lead to emergency department (ED) visits in children and adolescents.
Study design: To conduct an active surveillance of patients 18 years of age or younger who came to EDs with ADEs from Jan 1, 2004, to Dec 31, 2005, through a nationally representative, stratified probability sample of 63 US hospitals with EDs. The main outcome measures were national estimates of the number, type, patient demographics, and clinical characteristics of ADEs.
Results: Annually, an estimated 158,520 patients </=18 years old (95% CI, 117,745-199,295; 2 per 1000 persons) were treated in EDs for ADEs. Almost half (49.4%) of these visits occurred in patients between 1 and 4 years of age. Unintentional overdoses were the most common type of ADE (44.9%), followed by allergic reactions (35%), and adverse effects (12.6%). Antimicrobial agents, analgesic medications, and respiratory medications accounted for almost half of ADEs (25.2%, 13.7%, and 10.6%, respectively). Fewer than 1 in 10 patients (9.5%) required hospitalization or extended observation.
Conclusions: Interventions targeting unintentional overdoses of medications commonly given to preschool-aged children would likely have the highest impact in reducing ED visits from outpatient ADEs.