The Care of Adult Patients in Pediatric Emergency Departments

Margaret Samuels-Kalow, Mark I. Neuman, Jonathan Rodean, Jennifer R. Marin, Paul L. Aronson, Matthew Hall, Stephen B. Freedman, Rustin B. Morse, Eyal Cohen, Harold K. Simon, Samir S. Shah, Elizabeth R. Alpern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Objective: Adult patients are increasingly receiving care in pediatric emergency departments (PEDs), but little is known about the epidemiology of these visits. The goals of this study were to examine the characteristics of adult patients (≥21 years) treated in PEDs and to describe the variation in resource utilization across centers. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study examining visits to 30 PEDs (2012–2016) using the Pediatric Health Information System. Visits were categorized using All Patient Refined Diagnosis Related Groups and compared between age cohorts. We used multivariable logistic models to examine variation in demographics, utilization, testing, treatment, and disposition. Results: There were 12,958,626 visits to the 30 PEDs over 5 years; 70,636 (0.6%) were by adults. Compared with children, adult patients had more laboratory testing (49% vs 34%), diagnostic imaging (32% vs 29%), and procedures (48% vs 31%), and they were more often admitted (17% vs 11%) or transferred (21% vs 0.7%) (P < .001 for all). In multivariable analysis, older age, black race, Hispanic ethnicity, and private insurance were associated with decreased odds of admission in adults seen in PEDs. Across PEDs, the admission rates (7%–25%) and transfer rates (6%–46%) for adults varied. Conclusions: Adult patients cared for at PEDs have higher rates of testing, diagnostic imaging, procedures, and admission or transfer. There is wide variation in the care of adults in PEDs, highlighting the importance of further work to identify the optimal approach to adults who present for care in pediatric centers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)942-947
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number8
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019


  • adult patients
  • pediatric emergency medicine
  • transitions in care

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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