Trends in adult patients presenting to pediatric emergency departments

Published:April 07, 2020DOI:


      • Adult visits to pediatric emergency departments have increased over time.
      • Adults ages 22 and older represent approximately 2% of all pediatric ED visits each year.
      • Majority of the adults presenting to pediatric EDs do not have a childhood onset chronic condition.
      • Pregnancy related concerns and chest pain among most common presenting complaints



      Adults presenting to pediatric emergency departments (PEDs) include those with complex chronic conditions (CCCs) often still followed by pediatric providers, and those without CCCs (non-CCCs). This paper describes recent trends in adults seen within PEDs, both by age subgroups and CCC status.


      Data were retrospectively reviewed from the Pediatric Health Information System for PED visits between Jan 1, 2013 and Dec 31, 2017. Yearly visit rates were trended for all adult visits, age subgroups (18–21, 22–25, 26–40, and 41–95 years), and by CCC status. The most frequent diagnoses were reviewed for each adult age group and CCC category.


      Rates of adult PED visits significantly increased from 3.7% in 2013 to 4.2% in 2017 (P < 0.0001). While the overall majority (88% overall and >70% for each age group) of adult PED patients were non-CCC, the rate of CCC patients increased overall (P < 0.0001), especially among older patients (41–95 years) from 8.7% in 2013 to 29% in 2017 (P < 0.0001). The most frequent CCC diagnoses were sickle cell disease (18–21 and 22–25 years), cardiac pathology (26–40 years), and hyperlipidemia (41–95 years). The most frequent non-CCC diagnoses were abdominal pain (18–21 years), pregnancy-related (22–25 and 26–40 years), and chest pain (41–95 years).


      Visits to PEDs by adult patients have increased over time, with the majority of the population being represented by non-CCC adults. The results of this study can be used to guide specifics in adult medicine training during Pediatric Emergency Medicine fellowship and assist in continuing education efforts.


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