Injury Visits to Hospital Emergency Departments

For Immediate Release

Contact: NCHS Press Office (301) 458-4800

The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) has issued a new report documenting injury-related visits to hospital emergency departments over the period 1992-95. Some of the findings in the report include:

  • From 1992 through 1995, there were 147 million injury-related visits to emergency departments in the U.S., an average of 36.8 million per year.
  • Nearly 4 out of every 10 visits to emergency departments were for injuries. Fifty-four percent of visits by children ages 5-14 years were injury-related and 65 percent of visits by males 15-24 years of age were for injury.
  • Injury visit rates were higher for males than females and for black persons compared with white persons. Injury visit rates in the Midwest were higher than in the South or West geographic regions.
  • Private insurance was the expected source of payment for 34.6 percent of injury visits. For persons aged 65 years and over, Medicare was listed as the expected source of payment in 7 out of 10 visits.
  • Falls were the leading external cause of injury, accounting for 24 percent of the injury-related emergency department visits. Being struck by or striking against an object or person caused another 13 percent, and motor vehicle traffic incidents caused the injuries in 12 percent of the visits for which an external cause was provided.
  • Visits related to falls were more common among children under 5 years of age and the elderly than for other ages, while visit rates related to motor vehicle traffic injuries were higher for persons 15-24 years than for other ages. Visits for poisoning were more likely among young children than older persons.
  • There was an average of 1.9 million emergency department visits for intentional injuries, an annual rate of 7.5 visits per 1,000 persons.
  • Among persons aged 25-44 years, the visit rate for intentional injuries for black males was more than four times the rate for white males (41.1 and 10.1 visits per 1,000 persons, respectively).
  • Intentional injury visit rates were 60 percent higher in metropolitan than nonmetropolitan areas.
  • Open wounds were the leading diagnosis for injury visits, occurring at 22 percent of the injury visits. Males at all age groups were more likely than females to make visits with a diagnosis of open wounds.
  • One out of five injury visits to the emergency department had a noninjury principal diagnosis such as back pain.
  • Therapeutic procedures included wound care (29.6 percent), orthopedic care (20.2 percent), and administration of intravenous fluids (7.2 percent).
  • Medications were prescribed at 7 out of 10 injury visits. The leading therapeutic class was drugs for the relief of pain, occurring at almost one-half of the injury visits. Antimicrobials were prescribed at 14 percent of the visits. Immunologic agents, such as tetanus vaccines, were used at 10 percent of the visits.
  • Overall, 6 percent of injury visits resulted in hospitalization; with persons aged 65 years and over more likely than younger persons to be hospitalized from the emergency department. Regardless of age, visits for injuries caused by firearms and poisoning were more likely to result in hospitalization compared with injuries from other causes.

The report, “Injury Visits to Hospital Emergency Departments: United States, 1992-95,” is based on data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, conducted by NCHS. The report can be obtained directly from the NCHS home page using the Adobe Reader.