Objective: To determine if US child physical abuse and neglect injury rates changed from 2006 to 2014, whether definitive diagnoses of physical abuse and neglect were used more often over time, and what patient factors influenced definitive physical maltreatment diagnoses.
Methods: Nationally estimated rates of definitive and suggestive physical abuse and neglect injuries for children <10 years were generated using the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, the National Inpatient Sample, and census estimates. Trends over time were evaluated, including the trend in the proportion of definitive diagnoses to all diagnoses (definitive plus suggestive). Logistic regression was used to evaluate whether patient characteristics and hospital patient volumes were associated with definitive versus suggestive diagnoses.
Results: The population rates of child physical maltreatment medically treated injuries were unchanged from 2006 to 2014; the trends were not statistically significant for ED or hospitalized patients. Over time, physician definitive diagnoses as a proportion of all physical maltreatment diagnoses (definitive plus suggestive) increased in admitted children from 17.6% in 2006 to 22.0% in 2014 (p = 0.02). Older age, white race, lower income by zip code, and public insurance as well as larger patient volumes increased the odds of definitive rather than suggestive diagnoses of physical abuse and neglect injuries.
Conclusions: Definitive diagnoses of physical abuse and neglect increased over the study period and were associated with hospital volume and patient characteristics which may reflect provider experience and possible bias. The use of electronic medical records may have influenced the coding of definitive diagnoses.
Keywords: Injuries; Maltreatment; Neglect; Physical abuse; Trends.
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