Batteries are high-powered cause of ED visits

May 24, 2012

The number of emergency department (ED) visits by US children aged younger than 18 years for battery-related accidents more than doubled from 1990 to 2009. What?s driving the rise in these power cell-related emergencies? More >>

Battery accidents-usually involving ingestion or cavity insertion-account for almost 3,300 emergency department (ED) visits annually among US children aged younger than 18 years. This averages about 1 ED visit every 3 hours, according to the findings of a recent 20-year study.

During the study period (1990-2009), 65,788 children aged 18 years or younger presented to the ED with a battery-related emergency, for an average annual rate of 4.6 per 100,000 children. The number and rate of visits increased as the years went on, with the fastest acceleration occurring during the last 8 years of the study. Researchers calculated 2,591 battery-related ED visits in 1990; they counted 5,525 in 2009.

Part of the problem, they say, is the increasing use of button batteries, which are easier to swallow. Nearly 84% of battery-related accidents involved button batteries, with 3 times as many ingestions documented in 2009 (4,916) as in 1990 (1,507).

Researchers used a nationally representative sample from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) to calculate ED visits during the study period. They documented 4 types of battery-related accidents: ingestion (76.6%), nasal cavity insertion (10.2%), mouth exposure (7.5%), and ear canal insertion (5.7%).

The mean age of the children presenting was 3.9 years, but 1-year-olds had the greatest number of visits (13,742) of any single-year age group. Most (just >60%) were boys.

The most common uses of the batteries, when the use was known, were toys and games, hearing aids, watches, calculators, flashlights, and remote controls. Often children access the batteries of these devices on their own, the investigators say, necessitating that manufacturers develop ways to prevent children from doing so.

Most of the children (almost 92%) were treated and released. No fatalities occurred.

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