Objectives — The aims of the study were to measure overall trends and to identify leading causes for pediatric emergency department (ED) visits among children aged 0 to 4 years.
Methods — We conducted an 11-year population-based open cohort study using health administrative data from 2008 to 2018 in Ontario, Canada. All ED visits were extracted from the National Ambulatory Care Reporting System, along with the most responsible cause of each visit. Annual ED visit rates were calculated per 100 children in each year. Overall and disease-specific rates for all children were calculated and then stratified by sex and age groups. Relative percentage change in rates between 2008 and 2018 were calculated and compared using standardized differences (SDIFs). Statistical significance of time trends was tested using Poisson regression.
Results — This study included an average of 911,566 children from 2008 to 2018. All-cause ED visit rates increased by 28.2% from 2008 to 2018 (43.24-55.42 per 100, SDIF >0.1). Respiratory diseases were consistently the top cause of ED visits, and contributed to 1 in 3 ED visits in 2018. These respiratory conditions include asthma, asthma-related diseases (bronchiolitis, bronchitis, influenza, and pneumonia), and other respiratory diseases. Respiratory ED visit rates increased by 32.8% from 2008 to 2018 (11.51-15.28 per 100, SDIF <0.1), driven by a 46.4% (14.58-21.35 per 100, SDIF >0.1) increase among children younger than 1 year. There was a 78.0% increase in ED visits for bronchiolitis in infants (1.45-2.58 per 100, SDIF <0.1).
Conclusions — Respiratory diseases like bronchiolitis among infants were the consistent leading cause for ED visits. All-cause ED visit rates among young children increased by 28.17% from 2008 to 2018.