Despite recent national attention on deaths from firearms, little information exists about children and adolescents who are hospitalized for firearm injuries. The objective was to determine the national frequency of firearm-related hospitalizations in the United States in children, compare rates by cause and demographics, and describe hospitalized cases.
We used the 2009 Kids’ Inpatient Database to identify hospitalizations from firearm-related injuries in young people <20 years of age; International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification, and external-cause-of injury codes were used to categorize the injuries and the causes as follows: assault, suicide attempt, unintentional, or undetermined. Incidences were calculated by using the weighted number of cases and the intercensal population. Risk ratios compared incidences.
In 2009, 7391 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 6523–8259) hospitalizations were due to firearm-related injuries. The hospitalization rate was 8.87 (95% CI: 7.83–9.92) per 100 000 persons <20 years of age. Hospitalizations due to assaults were most frequent (n = 4559) and suicide attempts were least frequent (n = 270). Of all hospitalizations, 89.2% occurred in males; the hospitalization rate for males was 15.22 per 100 000 (95% CI: 13.41–17.03) and for females was 1.93 (95% CI: 1.66–2.20). The rate for black males was 44.77 (95% CI: 36.69–52.85), a rate more than 10 times that for white males. Rates were highest for those aged 15 to 19 years (27.94; 95% CI: 24.42–31.46). Deaths in the hospital occurred in 453 (6.1%); of those hospitalized after suicide attempts, 35.1% died.
On average, 20 US children and adolescents were hospitalized each day in 2009 due to firearm injuries. Public health efforts are needed to reduce this common source of childhood injury.