Jay Berry and colleagues report findings from an analysis of hospitalization data in the US, examining the proportion of inpatient resources attributable to care for children with neurological impairment.
Care advances in the United States (US) have led to improved survival of children with neurological impairment (NI). Children with NI may account for an increasing proportion of hospital resources. However, this assumption has not been tested at a national level.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a study of 25,747,016 US hospitalizations of children recorded in the Kids' Inpatient Database (years 1997, 2000, 2003, and 2006). Children with NI were identified with International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification diagnoses resulting in functional and/or intellectual impairment. We assessed trends in inpatient resource utilization for children with NI with a Mantel-Haenszel chi-square test using all 4 y of data combined. Across the 4 y combined, children with NI accounted for 5.2% (1,338,590) of all hospitalizations. Epilepsy (52.2% [n = 538,978]) and cerebral palsy (15.9% [n = 164,665]) were the most prevalent NI diagnoses. The proportion of hospitalizations attributable to children with NI did not change significantly (p = 0.32) over time. In 2006, children with NI accounted for 5.3% (n = 345,621) of all hospitalizations, 13.9% (n = 3.4 million) of bed days, and 21.6% (US$17.7 billion) of all hospital charges within all hospitals. Over time, the proportion of hospitalizations attributable to children with NI decreased within non-children's hospitals (3.0% [n = 146,324] in 1997 to 2.5% [n = 113,097] in 2006, p<.001) and increased within children's hospitals (11.7% [n = 179,324] in 1997 to 13.5% [n = 209,708] in 2006, p<0.001). In 2006, children with NI accounted for 24.7% (2.1 million) of bed days and 29.0% (US$12.0 billion) of hospital charges within children's hospitals.
Children with NI account for a substantial proportion of inpatient resources utilized in the US. Their impact is growing within children's hospitals. We must ensure that the current health care system is staffed, educated, and equipped to serve this growing segment of vulnerable children.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Disorders of the central and peripheral nervous system, often referred to as neurological impairments, are common in infants and children and can cause functional or intellectual disability. There are many causes of neurological impairments, including birth trauma, congenital abnormalities, structural defects, infections, tumors, blood flow disruption, genetic and metabolic conditions, and toxins. Symptoms can be progressive or static and vary widely depending on the condition. For example, developmental delay, changes in activity—often due to muscle wasting—and seizures may be common symptoms of neurological conditions in children. In many countries, extremely premature babies, and children with conditions such as spina bifida and muscular dystrophy, now receive better care than they used to, and may survive longer. However, although such children may have long-term care needs, they may receive crisis-driven, uncoordinated care, even in high-income countries.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is not well understood what proportion of hospital resource use is attributable to care for children with neurological impairments, although it's thought that this group may account for an increasing proportion of hospital resources. In this study, the researchers attempted to answer this question, specifically for the US, by evaluating national trends in hospital admissions for children with neurological impairments.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers used a multi-state database of US hospital admissions for children aged 0–18 years, known as the KID—the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project's Kids' Inpatient Database—to identify the number of hospital admissions, total number of days spent in the hospital, and total health care costs for children with neurological impairments from 1997 to 2006. The researchers identified appropriate admissions by using diagnostic codes from the International Classification of Diseases, 9th Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM), which were reviewed and approved by two pediatric neurologists.
The researchers found that from 1997 to 2006, there were 25,747,016 hospital admissions for children aged 0–18 years, and of these, 1,338,590 (5.2%) were associated with children who had a definite diagnosis of neurological impairment. The most prevalent diagnoses among all hospitalized children with neurological impairments were epilepsy (52.2%) and cerebral palsy (15.9%). Furthermore, across the study period, the proportion of children aged 13–18 years admitted to hospitals with neurological impairments increased from 7.3% to 9.9%. The researchers also found that children with neurological impairments accounted for an increasing proportion of days spent in a hospital (12.9% in 1997 to 13.9% in 2006). In addition, there was a substantial increase in admissions for infants with neurological impairments compared to infants without neurological impairments. The researchers also found that throughout the study period, there was a general pattern for children with neurological impairments to be admitted to pediatric hospitals, rather than general hospitals. Within children's hospitals, children with neurological impairments accounted for a substantial proportion of resources over the study period, including nearly one-third of all hospital charges.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show that in the US, children with neurological impairments account for a substantial proportion of inpatient resources utilized, particularly within children's hospitals, necessitating the need for adequate clinical care and a coordination of efforts to ensure that the needs of children with neurological impairments are met. System-based efforts such as partnerships between hospitals and families of children with neurological impairments and the rigorous evaluation of care treatment strategies have the potential to promote quality care for children with neurological impairments. However, such efforts will work only if the current health care system is adequately staffed with appropriately educated professionals.
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/pmed.1001158.
More information is available about the KID database used in this study
NHS Choices has further information about epilepsy, one of the most common types of neurological impairment examined in this study
Further information is available from PubMed Health about cerebral palsy, another neurological condition acquired during development that was studied in this dataset