Introduction Adolescence is a time of growth when people go through many physical, social, emotional and intellectual changes. As such adolescence is a time of vulnerability. There is limited published data on the reasons for adolescent people being admitted to hospital, the reasons they attend hospital services or healthcare utilisation in general. There is even less known about the attendance for emergency care. Our aim was to determine the characteristics of adolescents presenting to our emergency department over 1 year period. This knowledge can help inform future service development.
Methods A retrospective analysis of attendances of all adolescents aged 13–18 years attending a moderate sized paediatric emergency department (PED) from January to December 2014.
Results There were a total of 6256 attendances by young people to PED. Males slightly outnumbered females (53.3% males). The median age was 15.5 years (interquartile range 13.6, 18.8). There were approximately equal numbers presenting at each age group. Monthly distribution of patients showed a higher proportion of patients attending during summer months that was predominantly related to those attending with injury.
Injury was the most common presenting problem accounting for 62.8% (3932) attendances. Medical problems were responsible for 16.2% (1016) attendances. Mental and social health problems accounted for 8.5% (538) attendees and “other problems” accounted for 7.3% (457) attendances.
Medical problems could be categorised into 10 presenting complaint categories. Amongst them, abdominal pain, collapse, seizures and breathing difficulty accounted for half of the presentations. Sprain and fracture/dislocation accounted for nearly two-thirds of injury categories. Presentation with alcohol and drug abuse (203 presentations), and with deliberate self harm (335 presentations) together accounted for 8.5% (538) of all attendances.
Conclusion Our study describes a different range of presenting complaints for adolescents when compared to younger children. In keeping with the limited data available, drug use and self harm accounted for 8.5% of attendances. Augmentation of support for this vulnerable cohort would be important for service development. Management of adolescent injury is also a priority, with prevention an important element.
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