OBJECTIVES. The goals were to describe trends in pediatric traumatic brain injury hospitalizations in the United States and to provide national benchmarks for state and regional comparisons.

METHODS. Analysis of existing data (1991–2005) from the Nationwide Inpatient Sample, the largest longitudinal, all-payer, inpatient care database in the United States, was performed. Children 0 to 19 years of age were included. Annual rates of traumatic brain injury-related hospitalizations, stratified according to age, gender, severity of traumatic brain injury, and outcome, were determined.

RESULTS. From 1991 to 2005, the estimated annual incidence rate of pediatric hospitalizations associated with traumatic brain injury decreased 39%, from 119.4 to 72.7 hospitalizations per 100 000. The rates decreased for all age groups and for both boys and girls, although the rate for boys remained consistently higher at each time point. Fatal hospitalization rates decreased from 3.5 deaths per 100 000 in 1991–1993 to 2.8 deaths per 100 000 in 2003–2005. The rate of mild traumatic brain injury hospitalizations accounted for most of the overall decrease, whereas nonfatal hospitalization rates for moderate and severe traumatic brain injuries remained relatively unchanged.

CONCLUSIONS. Although pediatric hospitalization rates for mild traumatic brain injuries have decreased over the past 15 years, rates for moderate and severe traumatic brain injuries are relatively unchanged. Our study provides national estimates of pediatric traumatic brain injury hospitalizations that can be used as benchmarks to increase injury prevention effectiveness through targeting of effective strategies.

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