The cost of medical care for injuries to children

Marvin Malek, Bei hung Chang, Susan S. Gallagher, Bernard Guyer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Study objectives: To estimate the mean cost of initial medical treatment for a variety of injury types and injury causes and project the national cost of initial medical care for injuries to children. Design: We combined injury incidence data from the Massachusetts Statewide Childhood Injury Prevention Project (SCIPP) with a claims data set (1987 charges) from the Health Data Institute, Lexington, Massachusetts. Setting and study population: SCIPP incidence data were obtained from hospital emergency department and inpatient facilities for a population of 87,000 Massachusetts children 0 to 19 years old between 1979 and 1982. Health Data Institute charge data for children were derived from insurance claims for 3% of all privately insured patients throughout the United States. Results: The estimated mean cost of initial hospitalization for injury was $5,094, while ED care was $171. Projected annual cost for initial medical care of injury to children for the nation was $5.1 billion, which was about equally divided between cases seen in EDs and those requiring inpatient care. Although there was little difference in mean cost between the genders, mean cost increased with age. Because of both a higher injury incidence and a greater mean cost per injury, the projected initial cost of injuries to teenagers 15 to 19 years old was much higher than that of younger children. Conclusion: Expenditures for medical care of injured children, particularly adolescents, are great. The prevention of childhood injuries should become a higher priority in the United States. To improve the quality of national estimates of the incidence and cost of injury, a national surveillance system for nonfatal injuries should be developed. Such a system should include information on the major causes of injury and their costs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)997-1005
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1991


  • accident prevention
  • child health services
  • injury, economics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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