Epidemiology of Intensive Care Admissions for Children in the US From 2001 to 2019

Elizabeth Y. Killien, Matthew R. Keller, R. Scott Watson, Mary E. Hartman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Importance: Estimates of the number of US children receiving intensive care unit (ICU) care and ICU admission patterns over time are lacking. Objective: To determine how ICU admission patterns, use of critical care services, and the characteristics and outcomes of critically ill children have changed from 2001 to 2019. Design, Setting, and Participants: This population-based retrospective cohort study used data from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project's state inpatient databases from a total of 21 US states in 2001, 2004, 2010, 2016, and 2019. Hospitalized children aged 0 to 17 years, excluding newborns (during birth hospitalization), were included. Patients admitted to rehabilitation institutions or psychiatric hospitals were also excluded. Data were analyzed from July 2021 to December 2022. Exposures: Care in a nonneonatal ICU. Main Outcomes and Measures: From extracted patient data, International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification, and Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification, codes were used to identify diagnoses, comorbid conditions, organ failures, and mechanical ventilation. Generalized linear Poisson regression and the Cuzick test were used to evaluate trends. US Census data were used to generate age- and sex-adjusted national estimates of ICU admissions and costs. Results: Of 2157991 pediatric admissions, 275656 (12.8%) included ICU care. The mean (SD) age was 6.43 (6.10) years; 121 894 individuals were female (44.2%), and 153 731 were male (55.8%). From 2001 to 2019, the prevalence of ICU care among hospitalized children increased from 10.6% to 15.5%. The percentage of ICU admissions in children's hospitals rose from 51.2% to 85.1% (relative risk [RR], 1.66; 95% CI, 1.64-1.68). The percentage of children admitted to an ICU with an underlying comorbidity increased from 46.2% to 57.0% (RR, 1.23; 95% CI, 1.22-1.25), and the percentage with preadmission technology dependence increased from 16.4% to 23.5% (RR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.40-1.48). The prevalence of multiple organ dysfunction syndrome increased from 6.8% to 21.0% (RR, 3.12; 95% CI, 2.98-3.26), while mortality decreased from 2.5% to 1.8% (RR, 0.72; 95% CI, 0.66-0.79). Hospital length of stay increased by 0.96 days (95% CI, 0.73-1.18) for ICU admissions from 2001 to 2019. After inflation adjustment, total costs for a pediatric admission involving ICU care nearly doubled between 2001 and 2019. Nationally, an estimated 239000 children were admitted to a US ICU in 2019, corresponding to $11.6 billion in hospital costs. Conclusions and Relevance: In this study, the prevalence of children receiving ICU care in the US increased, as did length of stay, technology use, and associated costs. The US health care system must be equipped to care for these children in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)506-515
Number of pages10
JournalJAMA Pediatrics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2023


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