Number of child ED visits may warrant closer look

February 26, 2009

Injury-related emergency department visits involving children under age 15 totaled approximately 7.1 million, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.

Injury-related emergency department (ED) visits involving children under age 15 totaled approximately 7.1 million, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports. Children with more than one injury-related ED visit have greater likelihood of being reported to Child Protective Services (CPS) than children with only one ED visit.

These findings are based on research from Washington University and University of Missouri, which was published in the February issue of the Journal of Emergency Medicine. Researchers aimed to heighten awareness among emergency staff, to recognize children possibly at risk of abuse or poor treatment, and offer preventive measures to assist parents in cutting down on injuries.

"Not all children with multiple injury-related ED visits are victims of physical child abuse," said Patricia Schnitzer, a study author. "When treating young children who have had medical treatment for multiple injuries, physicians should seek information about previous injury-related ED visits, and ask parents about supervision techniques, their child's injuries, and home environment. This information can help identify risk factors for injuries."

In the study, 50,000 Missouri children ages 0 to 4 with at least one injury-related ED visit in 2000 were assessed. Results indicated that children who had two or more injury-related ED visits in one year were more likely to be reported for child maltreatment, compared with children with one injury-related ED visit.

"Physicians, social workers and other care providers can provide supervision guidelines, recommend parenting services and consider making reports to social services or family support agencies if inadequate supervision is suspected," Schnitzer said. "Regardless of the number of injuries, physicians who have concerns about a child's safety or suspect his/her injuries are related to physical abuse or neglect should immediately make a report to CPS."

View the study, "Association of Injury Visits and Child Maltreatment Reports," by clicking here.