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Children account for approximately 33 million annual emergency department (ED) visits in the United States. The spectrum and frequency of children with a critical illness presenting to an ED has not been previously analyzed.The purpose of this study was to examine the range of critical illness presenting to a tertiary Children's Hospital ED.This study was a retrospective chart review of all pediatric patients requiring immediate care in the medical resuscitation bay during a 25-month period from August 2005 to September 2007. Data are from a single center, academic, tertiary care pediatric hospital. A log of all patients requiring immediate care is kept in the medical resuscitation bay. Patients recorded in the log for a period of 25 consecutive months were reviewed for type of critical illness, frequency of critical illness, mode of arrival, and outcome. Trauma patients were excluded.There were approximately 45,000 pediatric visits per year with a total of 87,766 patients seen during the study period. There were 249 pediatric patients who required care in the medical resuscitation bay during the reviewed period. Complete data were obtained from 242 subjects' charts. Patients requiring immediate care accounted for 0.28% of all the visits.This study documents the infrequent need for pediatric critical care in the ED of a nonacademic tertiary children's hospital in the United States and reinforces the need to provide protocols, mock codes, and simulation labs in preparation for critically ill children.