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Study finds significant increased risk of future health issues for youth who suffer nonfatal firearm injuries

Jan. 4, 2024, 10:46 AM

 

by Jessica Pasley

According to a recent study released in Pediatrics, youth who suffer nonfatal firearm injuries have a significantly increased risk of hospitalizations, emergency department (ED) visits, outpatient visits and costs in the 12 months following injury compared to youth without a firearm injury.

Kelsey Gastineau, MD, MPH

“We’ve seen firearm injuries in youth dramatically climb over the last few years, wreaking havoc on the lives of children and families,” said Kelsey Gastineau, MD, MPH, assistant professor of Pediatrics at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt. “Our study helps quantify this devastation to inform the urgent need for solutions.”

Gastineau, the study’s lead investigator, along with researchers from the Medical University of South Carolina and George Washington School of Medicine and Health Science, conducted a propensity score matched cohort analysis using 2015 to 2018 Medicaid and Commercial MarketScan data comparing utilization in the 12 months post-firearm injury for youth up to 17 years old.

The study identified 2,110 youth with nonfatal firearm injuries. Compared with matched non-injured youth, a firearm-injured youth showed:

  • A 5.31-fold increased risk of inpatient hospitalization.
  • A 1.49-fold increased risk of ED visit.
  • A 1.06-fold increased risk of outpatient visit.

“Applied to the 11,258 youth in the United States with nonfatal firearm injuries in 2020, estimates represent a potential population health care savings of nearly $63 million,” said Gastineau. “Our results will add to the growing body of literature highlighting the significant economic and societal burden of pediatric firearm injuries.”

After hospitalization from a nonfatal firearm injury, previous research shows 50% of youth are discharged with a disability.

According to study findings, the potential for disruption of day-to-day living is also a factor, suggesting prolonged adverse health consequences.

“Evidence has shown that exposure to firearm violence in childhood is associated with hypertension, post-traumatic stress and future involvement in violent crime; but hospitalization is a unique stressor associated with sleep disturbances, separation from social support systems as well as the large financial burden placed on families,” the study authors wrote.

The increased health care utilization and costs associated with these injuries are not experienced equally by all communities, the report states.

“Kids come to the hospital for many reasons. The difference with firearm injuries is the preventable nature,” said Gastineau.

“Our findings, highlighting the significant risk of hospitalizations, ED and outpatient visits in the 12 months after a nonfatal firearm injury, should motivate leaders to implement evidence-informed measures at the institutional, state and federal levels to reduce the risk of firearm injuries for youth in the U.S.”

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