Predictors of Delayed Diagnosis of Pediatric CNS Tumors in the Emergency Department

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2023 Aug 1;39(8):617-622. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000002943. Epub 2023 Apr 21.


Objective: Central nervous system (CNS) tumor diagnoses are frequently delayed in children, which may lead to adverse outcomes and undue burdens on families. Examination of factors associated with delayed emergency department (ED) diagnosis could identify approaches to reduce delays.

Study design: We performed a case-control study using data from 2014 to 2017 for 6 states. We included children aged 6 months to 17 years with a first diagnosis of CNS tumor in the ED. Cases had a delayed diagnosis, defined as 1 or more ED visits in the 140 days preceding tumor diagnosis (the mean prediagnostic symptomatic interval for pediatric CNS tumors in the United States). Controls had no such preceding visit.

Results: We included 2828 children (2139 controls, 76%; 689 cases, 24%). Among cases, 68% had 1 preceding ED visit, 21% had 2, and 11% had 3 or more. Significant predictors of delayed diagnosis included presence of a complex chronic condition (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 9.73; 95% confidence interval [CI], 6.67-14.20), rural hospital location (aOR, 6.37; 95% CI, 1.80-22.54), nonteaching hospital status (aOR, 3.05, compared with teaching hospitals; 95% CI, 1.94-4.80), age younger than 5 years (aOR, 1.57; 95% CI, 1.16-2.12), public insurance (aOR, 1.49, compared with private; 95% CI, 1.16-1.92), and Black race (aOR, 1.42, compared with White; 95% CI, 1.01-1.98).

Conclusions: Delayed ED diagnosis of pediatric CNS tumors is common and frequently requires multiple ED encounters. Prevention of delays should focus on careful evaluation of young or chronically ill children, mitigating disparities for Black and publicly insured children, and improving pediatric readiness in rural and nonteaching EDs.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Delayed Diagnosis*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States / epidemiology