Children with chronic conditions in a pediatric emergency department

Pediatr Emerg Care. 1996 Jun;12(3):166-8. doi: 10.1097/00006565-199606000-00005.


The objective of this study was to describe the use of a pediatric emergency department (PED) by children with chronic conditions. The study design was retrospective and descriptive in an urban tertiary care pediatric hospital setting. We reviewed 8561 visits to a PED over a three-month time period. Two thousand twenty-four (24%) of the visits were by children with one or more chronic conditions. There were no interventions. The mean age of the patients was 4.9 years, and 61% were male. Thirty-one percent of the patients sought care between 8 AM and 5 PM Monday through Friday. Five subspecialty areas accounted for 86% of the chronic conditions seen: asthma (43%), neurology (15%), hematology/oncology (14%), neurosurgery (10%), and cardiology (4%). Twenty-eight percent of the chronically ill patients were admitted as compared to 11% of the nonchronically ill patients (P < 0.001). One percent of the chronically ill patients were admitted to the intensive care unit as compared to 0.03% of the nonchronically ill patients (P < 0.0001). It was concluded that children with chronic conditions account for one-quarter of all PED visits. Sixty-nine percent of those visits were made during evening/ nighttime hours or on the weekend. A relatively large percentage of these children were admitted. The pediatric emergency physicians provide an important service to both the children with chronic conditions and the subspecialists who care for them. PEDs may need to refine emergency department systems to serve this group of patients as efficiently and effectively as possible.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease / therapy*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Focal Infection / therapy
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Patient Admission
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time
  • Urban Population