OBJECTIVE:

To investigate the epidemiology of battery-related emergency department (ED) visits among children <18 years of age in the United States.

METHODS:

Using a nationally representative sample from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, battery-related ED visits in the United States from 1990 to 2009 were analyzed. Four battery exposure routes for patients were determined from diagnosis codes and case narratives: ingestion, mouth exposure, ear canal insertion, and nasal cavity insertion.

RESULTS:

An estimated 65 788 (95% confidence interval: 54 498–77 078) patients <18 years of age presented to US EDs due to a battery-related exposure during the 20-year study period, averaging 3289 battery-related ED visits annually. The average annual battery-related ED visit rate was 4.6 visits per 100 000 children. The number (P < .001) and rate (P = .002) of visits increased significantly during the study period, with substantial increases during the last 8 study years. The mean age was 3.9 years (95% confidence interval: 3.5–4.2), and 60.2% of patients were boys. Battery ingestion accounted for 76.6% of ED visits, followed by nasal cavity insertion (10.2%), mouth exposure (7.5%), and ear canal insertion (5.7%). Button batteries were implicated in 83.8% of patient visits caused by a known battery type. Most children (91.8%) were treated and released from the ED.

CONCLUSIONS:

This study evaluated battery-related ED visits among US children using a nationally representative sample. Batteries pose an important hazard to children, especially those ≤5 years of age. The increasing number and rate of battery-related ED visits among children underscore the need for increased prevention efforts.

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