Where are Lengths of Stay Longer and Total Charges Higher for Pediatric Burn Patients?

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Treatment of pediatric burn patients is costly and may require long length of stay in the hospital (LOS). Establishing where these LOS and charges are highest is warranted. The current study investigated whether pediatric burn patients had higher total charges and longer LOS when seen at teaching hospitals, when compared with nonteaching hospitals. The study reviewed inpatient admissions for pediatric burn patients in 2003, 2006, and 2009 by using the Kids’ Inpatient Database, which is part of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) codes 940-947 were used to define burn injury, LOS, total charges, and type of hospital. The authors tested for differences between the LOS and total charges between children seen at three types of hospitals (pediatric, nonpediatric/teaching, nonpediatric/nonteaching) while adjusting for traditional risk factors (eg age, total burn surface area) by using generalized linear mixed-effects modeling. A total of N=28,777 children had burn injuries (n=16,115, 56.0% seen at pediatric hospitals; n=9353, 32.5% seen at nonpediatric/teaching hospitals; and n=3309, 11.5% seen at nonpediatric/nonteaching hospitals). Pediatric burn patients seen at pediatric hospitals, unadjusted, have significantly longer LOS (5.54 days vs 4.25 days and 4.00 days, P<.001) and more total charges in 2009 dollars ($31,319 vs $24,413 and $21,499, P<.001). In addition, patients seen at pediatric hospitals had significantly more total burn surface area (P<.001), more comorbidities (P=.021), and were younger (P<.001). After adjusting for total burn surface area, number of comorbidities, and age, no differences existed between teaching and nonteaching hospitals for LOS (P=.481) or total charges (P=.758). Although pediatric burn patients may have increased LOS and total charges when seen at teaching hospitals, when taking an unadjusted perspective, this may be an artifact that teaching hospitals see pediatric burn patients who are younger, have more comorbidities, and have more total burn surface area. As such, after adjustment, type of hospital may have no influence on LOS and total charges.

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