Prevalence and trends of the adult patient population in a pediatric emergency department.
ABSTRACT Although pediatric emergency departments (PEDs) generally do not care for adult patients (≥21 years old), adult patients still present to PEDs with short-term complaints. The purpose of this study was to describe trends in the prevalence, the acuity, and the causes of adult patients presenting to a PED.
Patients consisted of adults (≥21 years old) seen in a large, urban PED from January 1, 2004, to December 31, 2008. Data were obtained retrospectively from the electronic medical record. Data included demographics, triage acuity, primary codes according to the International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, insurance status, referred status, and disposition.
There were 463,827 patient visits during the study period. Of these visits, 3361 (0.7%) were adult patients, with a mean (SD) age of 27.5 (9) years. During the 5-year study period, overall PED visits increased by 9% (from 85,987 to 93,753), whereas adult patient visits increased 29% (from 605 to 780). Of the adult patients seen, 1898 (55%) were white and 2100 (62%) were female. Moreover, 1465 (44%) were triaged either emergently or to the medical/trauma resuscitation room, 652 (20%) were admitted, and 677 (20%) were transferred to another facility. Of these adult patients, 712 (21%) were referred to our PED by a primary care provider or subspecialist, and 790 (29%) had no insurance.
Adult visits to a large, urban PED have increased significantly during the past 5 years. Often, these patients have little or no insurance and present with a high acuity. Transitioning adult patients with long-term "pediatric" conditions and further training PED staff on how to care for adult patients are essential.