OBJECTIVES:

To examine trends in incidence of hospitalizations for injury from abuse in young children from 1997 through 2009 and to examine injury severity trends.

METHODS:

Cases were identified in the National Inpatient Sample database of the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project by using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification codes for child maltreatment and external cause of injury for assault in children aged 0 through 3 years. Incidence was calculated by age, gender, and region. Trends in incidence of hospitalization and injury severity were calculated over time.

RESULTS:

Hospitalization rates for injury from abuse showed no significant change over the study period, ranging from a low of 2.10 per 10 000 children in 1998 to a high of 3.01 per 10 000 children in 2005 (P = .755). Children aged <1 had significantly higher hospitalization rates for injury from abuse (6.01 vs 1.12, P <.001) and higher mean injury severity scores compared with children aged 1 to 3 years (12.50, SD = 0.14 vs 8.56, SD = 0.21, P <.001). Injury severity scores increased significantly over the study period.

CONCLUSIONS:

No significant change in hospitalization rates for injury from abuse among young children was observed from 1997 to 2009. These results coincide with other reports of stable or modestly increasing rates of serious physical abuse or death in young children but not with reports from child welfare data showing declines in physical abuse during the same period. Diverse sources of data may provide important complementary methods to track child abuse.

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