High Rate of Emergency Department Care in Youth With Abdominal Pain-Associated Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders

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Pediatric Emergency Care


Objectives: The primary objective was to describe patterns of care delivery locations in youth with abdominal pain-associated functional gastrointestinal disorders (AP-FGID) and assess for differences in patterns of care delivery by sex and race. A secondary objective was to describe cost variability within the emergency department (ED).

Methods: Data were obtained using a large, single-vendor database that extracts and deidentifies data from the electronic health record across the outpatient, ED, and inpatient continuum of care. We evaluated patients 8 to 17 years of age seen over an 8-year period for a priority 1 diagnosis of an AP-FGID. Data collected included age, sex, race, encounter location, and total cost of ED encounters. We specifically assessed how often patients seen in the ED were also seen in outpatient or inpatient settings.

Results: A total of 53,750 patients (64% female; mean age, 13.3 ± 2.8 years) were identified and assessed. The most common location of care was the ED (48.8%) followed by the outpatient setting (46.2%). Of patients seen for a priority 1 AP-FGID diagnosis in the ED, only 3.7% were seen for a priority 1 diagnosis in the outpatient setting, and only 1% were seen in an inpatient setting. Overall, females received 42.5% of their care and males received 44.8% of their care in the ED. The overall rate of ED care was 66.9% for Hispanic, 61.5% for African American, 55.1% for Asian, 46.6% for Native American, and 36.9% for Caucasian patients.

Conclusions: The ED is the most common location for care for youth with AP-FGIDs and, for the majority, seems to be the only location. This seems to be particularly true for Hispanic and African American patients. Given the often complex psychosocial needs of this patient group, processes need to be developed to transition these patients into the outpatient setting, ideally to programs specializing in chronic pain.



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functional gastrointestinal disorders, functional dyspepsia, irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal migraines