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J Am Coll Emerg Physicians Open


BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic affected the volume and epidemiology of pediatric emergency department (ED) visits. We aimed to determine the rate of associated complications for 16 high-risk conditions in a Michigan statewide network of academic and community EDs during the pandemic.

METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional study of pediatric ED visits among a network of 5 Michigan health systems during the pre-pandemic (March 1, 2019-March 10, 2020) and pandemic (March 11, 2020-March 31, 2021) periods. Data were collected from the medical record and included patient demographics, ED visit characteristics, procedure codes, and final International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision, Clinical Modification diagnosis codes. Selection of codes for 16 high-risk conditions and diagnostic complications were identified using previously described methods. Characteristics of ED visits were compared before versus during the pandemic using χ(2) and Fisher's exact tests. We used multilevel logistic regression to analyze covariates and potential confounders for being diagnosed with a high-risk condition or a complication of a high-risk condition.

RESULTS: A total of 417,038 pediatric ED visits were analyzed. The proportion of patients presenting with 10 of 16 high-risk conditions (including appendicitis, sepsis, and stroke) was higher in the pandemic period compared with pre-pandemic (P < 0.01). Despite this, there was no significant increase in the frequency of complications for any of the 16 high-risk conditions during the pandemic. The adjusted odds of being diagnosed with appendicitis (pre-pandemic 0.23% vs pandemic 0.52%; odds ratio [OR], 1.19 [95% confidence interval, CI, 1.00-1.41]), diabetic ketoacidosis (pre-pandemic 0.16% vs pandemic 0.52%; OR, 2.40 [95% CI, 2.07-2.78]), intussusception (pre-pandemic 0.05% vs pandemic 0.07%; OR, 1.64 [95% CI, 1.22-2.21)], and testicular torsion (pre-pandemic 0.10% vs pandemic 0.14%; OR, 1.64 [95% CI, 1.18-2.28]) was higher during the pandemic.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite a higher proportion of ED visits attributed to high-risk conditions, there was no increase in complications, suggesting minimal impact of the pandemic on outcomes of pediatric ED visits.

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