News from the FDA/CDC

Child abuse visits to EDs declined in 2020, but not admissions



Emergency department visits related to child abuse and neglect dropped by half early in the pandemic, compared with 2019, but the visits in 2020 were significantly more likely to result in hospitalization, based on analysis of a national ED database.

Child abuse/neglect-related ED visits that ended in admission

The number of ED visits involving child abuse and neglect was down by 53% during the 4-week period from March 29 to April 25, 2020, compared with the 4 weeks from March 31 to April 27, 2019. The proportion of those ED visits that ended in hospitalizations, however, increased from 2.1% in 2019 to 3.2% in 2020, Elizabeth Swedo, MD, and associates at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

“ED visits related to suspected or confirmed child abuse and neglect decreased beginning the week of March 15, 2020, coinciding with the declaration of a national emergency related to COVID-19 and implementation of community mitigation measures,” they wrote.

An earlier study involving the same database (the National Syndromic Surveillance Program) showed that, over the two same 4-week periods, the volume of all ED visits in 2020 was down 72% for children aged 10 years and younger and 71% for those aged 11-14 years.

In the current study, however, all age subgroups had significant increases in hospital admissions. The proportion of ED visits related to child abuse and neglect that resulted in hospitalization rose from 3.5% in 2019 to 5.3% in 2020 among ages 0-4 years, 0.7% to 1.3% for ages 5-11 years, and 1.6% to 2.2% for adolescents aged 12-17, Dr. Swedo and associates reported.

The absence of a corresponding drop in hospitalizations may be tied to risk factors related to the pandemic, “such as loss of income, increased stress related to parental child care and schooling responsibilities, and increased substance use and mental health conditions among adults,” the investigators added.

The National Syndromic Surveillance Program receives daily data from 3,310 EDs in 47 states, but the number of facilities meeting the investigators’ criteria averaged 2,970 a week for the 8 weeks of the study period.

SOURCE: Swedo E et al. MMWR. 2020 Dec. 11;69(49):1841-7.

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