United States trends in healthcare charges for pediatric firearm injuries

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United States trends in healthcare charges for pediatric firearm injuries

Category: Costs, Crime, Homicide, Injury, Suicide, Unintentional, Youth|Journal: The American Journal of Emergency Medicine|Author: D Bongiorno, G Badolato, J Levy, J Vernick, M Boyle, M Goyal|Year: 2021


From 2009 to 2016, >21,000 children died and an estimated 118,000 suffered non-fatal injuries from firearms in the United States. Limited data is available on resource utilization by injury intent. We use hospital charges as a proxy for resource use and sought to: 1) estimate mean charges for initial ED and inpatient care for acute firearm injuries among children in the U.S.; 2) compare differences in charges by firearm injury intent among children; and 3) evaluate trends in charges for pediatric firearm injuries over time, including within intent subgroups.



In this repeated cross-sectional analysis of the 2009–2016 Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, we identified firearm injury cases among children aged ≤19 years using ICD-9-CM and ICD-10-CM external cause of injury codes (e-codes). Injury intent was categorized using e-codes as unintentional, assault-related, self-inflicted, or undetermined. Linear regressions utilizing survey weighting were used to examine associations between injury intent and healthcare charges, and to evaluate trends in mean charges over time.



Among 21,951 unweighted cases representing 102,072 pediatric firearm-related injuries, mean age was 16.6 years, and a majority were male (88.2%) and publicly insured (51.5%). Injuries were 53.9% assault-related, 37.7% unintentional, 1.8% self-inflicted, and 6.7% undetermined. Self-inflicted injuries had higher mean charges ($98,988) than assault-related ($52,496) and unintentional ($28,618) injuries (p < 0.001). Self-inflicted injuries remained associated with higher mean charges relative to unintentional injuries, after adjusting for patient demographics, hospital characteristics, and injury severity (p = 0.015). Mean charges for assault-related injuries also remained significantly higher than charges for unintentional injuries in multivariable models (p < 0.001). After adjusting for inflation, mean charges for pediatric firearm-related injuries increased over time (p-trend = 0.018) and were 23.1% higher in 2016 versus 2009. Mean charges increased over time among unintentional injuries (p-trend = 0.002), but not among cases with assault-related or self-inflicted injuries.



Self-inflicted and assault-related firearm injuries are associated with higher mean healthcare charges than unintentional firearm injuries among children. Mean charges for pediatric firearm injuries have also increased over time. These findings can help guide prevention interventions aimed at reducing the substantial burden of firearm injuries among children.