OBJECTIVES

Acetaminophen poisoning occurs in all age groups; however, hospital-based outcomes of children with these poisonings were not well characterized. Our objectives were to describe the incidence, characteristics, and outcomes of hospital stays in children with acetaminophen poisoning and evaluate the contribution of intentionality.

METHODS

We used the 2016 Kids’ Inpatient Database and validated International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision diagnostic codes to identify hospitalizations of children aged 0 to 19 years for acetaminophen poisoning. We used standard survey methods to generate weighted population estimates and describe characteristics and outcomes, both overall and stratified by intentionality.

RESULTS

There were 9935 (95% confidence interval [CI], 9252–10 619) discharges from acute care hospitals for acetaminophen poisoning in U.S. children aged 0 to 19 years during 2016, corresponding to a population rate of 12.1 (95% CI, 11.3–12.9) hospitalizations per 100 000 children. Most hospitalizations for both intentional and unintentional acetaminophen poisoning occurred in females, with a strongly age-related sex distribution. Median length of stay was 2 days (interquartile range, 1–4 days); however, nearly half of discharges were subsequently transferred to another type of facility (eg, psychiatric hospital). Median hospital charges for acute care were $14 379 (interquartile range,$9162–$23 114), totaling$204.7 million (95% CI, $187.4–$221.9) in aggregate. Of 31 632 hospital discharges associated with self-harm medication poisoning in children aged 0 to 19 years, acetaminophen was the single most commonly implicated agent.

CONCLUSIONS

Acetaminophen poisoning was the most common cause of U.S. hospital stays associated with medication self-harm poisoning. More effective acetaminophen poisoning prevention strategies are needed, which may reduce the burden of this common adolescent malady.