A new study out of Kennedy Krieger reveals that children with autism that are nine times more likely to visit the emergency department for psychiatric reasons than their typical peers.
In the first study to compare mental health-related emergency department (ED) visits between children with and without autism spectrum disorders (ASD), researchers found that ED visits are nine times more likely to be for psychiatric reasons if a child has an ASD diagnosis. Published in the journal Pediatric Emergency Care (Epub ahead of print), the study found externalizing symptoms, such as severe behaviors tied to aggression, were the leading cause of ED visits among children with ASD. Importantly, the likelihood of a psychiatric ED visit was higher if a child carried private health insurance rather than medical assistance.
Using the 2008 National Emergency Department Sample, the largest all-payer ED database in the US, researchers examined data from a total of 3,974,332 ED visits for patients ages 3 to 17, of which 13,191 visits were from children with ASD. Mental health-related ED visits were based on International Classification of Disease (ICD) billing diagnoses that included mood, anxiety and psychotic disorders, suicide and self-injury, and externalizing behaviors such as aggression.