Patient Factors Associated With the Decision to Transfer Adult Patients From a Pediatric Emergency Department For Definitive Care

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Adults presenting to pediatric emergency departments are transferred to general emergency departments in proportions between 20% and 60%. How illness severity is related to the decision to transfer is poorly understood. We compared the proportion of adults with emergent and nonemergent conditions with respect to their final disposition. We also determined characteristics associated with transfer.


We conducted a retrospective review of the electronic medical record and identified all patients 25 years and older presenting to a large urban freestanding pediatric emergency department from 2008 to 2013. We collected demographic and clinical information and used a preexisting algorithm to classify visits as emergent or nonemergent. We created a multivariate logistical regression model to determine independent variables associated with transfer.


Among 246,694 encounters, 1182 (0.5%) patients were older than 25 years. We excluded 402 (34%) because they were not categorized. Of the 780 categorized, 32% had an emergent and 68% had a nonemergent condition. Only 22% were transferred. Compared with nonurgent patients, the proportion transferred was twice as high for emergent patients (36% vs 15%), but even for emergent patients, most (63%) were retained for definitive care and/or disposition. Emergent diagnosis, age 45 to 64 years, and higher triage acuity were independently associated with the decision to transfer.


Regardless of illness severity, a minority of adult patients were transferred away for definitive care. Factors independently associated with transfer were emergent condition, higher triage acuity, and older age.

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