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Objectives: The aim of this study was to describe the resource utilization for children with common pediatric conditions treated in academic and nonacademic emergency departments (EDs).

Methods: We performed a retrospective, cross-sectional descriptive study using the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey Data from 1995 to 2010 including children less than 18 years old with a diagnosis of asthma, bronchiolitis, croup, gastroenteritis, fever, febrile seizure, or afebrile seizure. Academic EDs (A-ED) were those with greater than 25% of patients seen by a trainee. For each condition, we reported the proportion of testing, medications, and disposition between A-ED and nonacademic EDs (NA-ED).

Results: From 1995 to 2010, approximately 450,000,000 estimated pediatric visits are represented by the survey based on 122,811 actual visits. For most common conditions, testing and disposition were comparable; however, some variation was noted. Among patients with bronchiolitis, a higher proportion of patients was admitted and had radiographs in NA-EDs (18% vs 10% and 56% vs 45%, respectively). For children with croup, radiographs were performed more often at NA-EDs (27% vs 6%). Among those with febrile seizures, more lumbar punctures were performed in NA-EDs (14% vs 0%). In children with afebrile seizures, more head computed tomography scans were obtained at NA-EDs (34% vs 21%).

Conclusion: Among pediatric patients with croup, bronchiolitis, and febrile and afebrile seizure, higher resource utilization and admissions were observed in NA-EDs. These preliminary findings from a national survey require a more detailed investigation into the variation in care between A-ED and NA-ED settings.

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