Comparing emergency department presentations among children with cerebral palsy with general childhood presentations: a data linkage study

Elaine Meehan, Katrina Williams, Susan M. Reid, Gary L. Freed, Franz E. Babl, Jillian R. Sewell, Suzanna Vidmar, Susan Donath, Dinah S. Reddihough

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5 Citations (Scopus)


Aim: The aims of this study were to estimate the proportion of emergency department presentations attributable to children with cerebral palsy (CP), investigate the frequency of emergency department presentations in a CP cohort, and compare emergency department presentations among children with CP with those of other children. Method: This was a retrospective cohort study. The Victorian Cerebral Palsy Register was linked to the Victorian Emergency Minimum Dataset. Data on emergency department presentations for the CP cohort occurring between 2007 and 2014 and population control data were obtained. Results: The CP cohort (n=1748) had 7015 emergency department presentations during the 7-year period, accounting for 0.4% of the 1.69 million age-specific presentations during that time. The number of annual presentations per 1000 children rose with increasing CP severity. Compared with presentations among the general population, higher proportions of presentations among the CP cohort were preceded by ambulance arrivals (27% vs 8%), triaged as urgent (66% vs 32%), and required hospital admission (38% vs 12%). Interpretation: The marked differences in presentations between the CP cohort and the general population in the proportions that were urgent and required ambulance arrivals and hospital admissions was an important finding. Strategies to ensure appropriate use of services, including encouragement to seek earlier assistance from primary care providers, may prevent problems escalating to the need for urgent care. What this paper adds: Children with cerebral palsy (CP) account for 0.4% of childhood emergency department presentations. More emergency department presentations among children with CP require ambulance arrival. More CP emergency department presentations are urgent and require hospital admission. Traditional emergency department triage scales seem less accurate for this group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1188-1195
Number of pages8
JournalDevelopmental Medicine and Child Neurology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes

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