• Article

Factors influencing infant visits to emergency departments

Objectives. To follow the 1995 birth cohort of infants, born in the State of Missouri, through their first birthday to: 1) examine their rates of visits to emergency departments (EDs), 2) identify predictors of any ED visit, 3) examine rates of nonurgent ED visits, and 4) identify predictors of nonurgent visits.

Methods. This was a retrospective population cohort study. Using deterministic linkage procedures, 2 databases at the Missouri Department of Health (DOH; (the patient abstract database and the birth registry database) were linked by DOH personnel. International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision-Clinical Modification codes for ED visits were classified as emergent, urgent, or nonurgent by 2 researchers. Eight newborn characteristics were chosen for analysis. Negative binomial regression was used to examine the rates and predictors of both total and nonurgent ED visits.

Results. There were 935 total ED visits and 153 nonurgent ED visits per 1000 infant years. The average number of visits was .94, with 59% of infants having no visits, 21% having 1 ED visit, and 20% having 2 or more visits.Factors associated with increases in both total and nonurgent ED visits were Medicaid, self-pay, black race, rural region, presence of birth defects, and a nursery stay of >2 days. Significant interactions were found between Medicaid and race and Medicaid and rural regions on rates of ED use and nonurgent use. The highest rate of ED use, 1.8 per person year, was seen in white, rural infants on Medicaid, and the lowest rate (.4 per person year) was seen in urban white infants not on Medicaid. The highest rates of nonurgent use, .3 per person year, were among urban and rural Medicaid infants of both races and among black infants on commercial insurance. The lowest nonurgent rate, .04 per person year, was seen in white urban infants on commercial insurance.

Conclusion. Infants in the State of Missouri have high rates of ED visits. Nonurgent visits are only a small portion of ED visits and cannot explain large variations in ED usage. Increased ED use by Medicaid patients may reflect continuing difficulties in accessing primary care.


Sharma, V., Simon, SD., Bakewell, JM., Ellerbeck, EF., Fox, MH., & Wallace, D. (2000). Factors influencing infant visits to emergency departments. Pediatrics, 106(5), 1031-1039.