Persistent gap of incremental charges for obesity as a secondary diagnosis in common pediatric hospitalizations

J Hosp Med. 2009 Mar;4(3):149-56. doi: 10.1002/jhm.388.


Objective: To use hospitalization data from 2003 to determine whether prior findings, showing higher charges and longer lengths-of-stay (LOSs) for children with obesity versus those without, were stable over time and whether the magnitude of differences was consistent over a 4-year period.

Methods: Using the 2000 and 2003 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Kids Inpatient Database (KID), we examined discharges for the top 4 nonpregnancy-related principal discharge diagnoses for children aged 2-18 years (asthma, pneumonia, affective disorders, and appendicitis), classified as with or without obesity based on the presence of the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) code 278.0x as a secondary diagnosis. We compared mean charges for hospitalizations with obesity listed as secondary diagnosis versus those without. Results are presented in 2003 dollars.

Results: Among children's discharges in 2000 and 2003, 1.1% and 1.6%, respectively, listed obesity as a secondary diagnosis. In 2003, for all 4 diagnoses, adjusted mean hospital charges were statistically significantly higher and adjusted mean LOS was statistically significantly longer for discharges with obesity as a secondary diagnosis versus those without. Additionally, the magnitude of the differences for both charges and LOS was generally somewhat greater in 2003 than in 2000 (asthma 9%, pneumonia 17%, affective disorders 121%, and appendicitis 3%) although it did not achieve statistical significance (P > 0.05).

Conclusions: These findings suggest a widening gap of incremental charges and LOS associated with obesity as a comorbidity. This implies a financial imperative for further research to evaluate factors that contribute to greater resource utilization among obese children.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Comorbidity*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Female
  • Hospital Charges / trends*
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / economics
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / trends
  • Male
  • Obesity / economics*
  • United States