Injury Admissions to Pediatric Intensive Care Are Predictable and Preventable: A Call to Action

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Injuries are often preventable yet remain the most common cause of death in children ages 1 to 19 years in Canada. In this retrospective case series, the authors sought to determine the proportion of injury admissions to a tertiary multidisciplinary university hospital Pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) that were preventable by known measures. Patients were a consecutive sample of 104 children, aged 99 (mean [SD] 70; range, 1–215) months, who were admitted to PICU due to injury from July 1997 to June 1998. Charts were reviewed to determine morbidity (PICU days, ventilation days, and discharge to a rehabilitation hospital), mortality, and whether the injury occurred by a preventable mechanism (as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics). Out of 790 admissions, 104 (13.2%) were for injury—81% unintentional and 19% intentional. Unintentional injuries occurred by diverse mechanisms, and 65/84 (77%; 95% confidence interval, 67percnt–86%) were potentially preventable. Unintentional injuries were especially preventable in the younger age groups (P = .009): 71% (5/7) in those <1 year; 89% (31/35) in those 1 to 4 years; 89% (16/18) in those 5 to 9 years; and 54% (13/24) in those ≥10 years. Most intentional injuries were suicide attempts in adolescents, and 88% had multiple risk factors for suicide. Patients were in PICU for 2.9 (SD 4.5) days, ventilated in 73% for 2.8 (SD 4.4) days, had a mortality of 12.5% (95% confidence interval, 6.8percnt–20.4%), and demonstrated common need for rehabilitation. Thus, injuries in children resulting in admission to the PICU are common and highly preventable events with significant morbidity and mortality. Novel strategies to improve the public's perception of the cost of childhood injury are needed.

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