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Home HEALTH Battery-Related ER Visits in Kids 'Still Too Frequent,' Study Suggests

Battery-Related ER Visits in Kids ‘Still Too Frequent,’ Study Suggests

Rates of battery-related pediatric emergency department (ED) visits increased significantly from 2010 to 2017, with children aged 5 and younger making up the majority of cases, an observational study showed.

Among a nationally representative sample, approximately 70,322 (95% CI: 51,275-89,369) battery-related emergency department visits occurred during the study period (9.5 visits per 100,000 children per year). year), reported Mark D. Chandler, MPH, of Safe Kids Worldwide in Silver Spring, Maryland, and colleagues.

There was a statistically significant increase in emergency department visits from 2010 to 2017 (P=0.03), which then decreased insignificantly from 2017 to 2019, they noted in pediatrics.

“Unfortunately, despite all existing injury prevention efforts, battery-related emergency department visits remain far too frequent,” Chandler and his team wrote. “Regulatory efforts and industry adoption of safer coin cell battery designs are urgently needed to reduce or eliminate ingestion injuries in children.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, children aged 5 years and younger had the highest rates of these visits (24.5 visits per 100,000 children). Visits were much less frequent among children aged 6 to 17 years (2.2 visits per 100,000 children). The mean age of patients seen for battery-related visits was 3.2 years.

The most common type of battery involved was the button cell, which accounted for 84.7% of the visits. These small disk-shaped batteries are becoming more common due to their use in smaller electronic devices such as toys, digital watches, hearing aids, and remote controls. These types of batteries are especially risky because of their size and the ease with which they can be removed from devices, the authors suggested.

In this study, where expected battery use was observed, the majority came from watches (29.7%) and toys/games (28.8%).

The most common action leading to an emergency department visit was ingestion (90%), followed by nasal insertion (5.7%), ear insertion (2.5%), and mouth exposure ( 1.8%).

“Young children use their senses to explore their surroundings, often bringing objects to their mouths, ear canals, or nostrils,” Chandler and her team explained. “As young children become increasingly mobile and curious, their risk of foreign body ingestion increases.”

As little as 2 hours after ingestion, contact of a button cell with wet tissue can cause rapid hydrolysis of water into highly alkaline hydroxide ions. This, in turn, results in liquefactive necrosis, which can progress even after the battery is removed, they noted.

For this study, Chandler and her team used data on emergency department visits collected from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System for children from 2010 to 2019. Using narrative descriptions and diagnostic codes, battery-related cases were coded into four routes of exposure: ingestion, oral exposure, ear insertion, and nasal insertion.

Oral exposure was limited to cases where the battery caused chemical burns, and ingestion cases were limited to situations where the battery was swallowed intact.

Chandler and colleagues noted that the study sample size was limited to battery-related exposures that resulted in an emergency department visit, which may underestimate the number of these exposures. Information on battery type, exposure route, and intended use was also limited, which could have led to misclassification. Finally, they acknowledged that it was unclear whether the increase in ED visit rates was due to higher exposures, higher severity, changes in parental care-seeking behavior, or changes in treatment protocols.

  • James Lopilato is a staff writer for Medpage Today. He covers a variety of topics that are being explored in current medical scientific research.


Chandler did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

One coauthor reported relationships with Marpac, Zotarix, Landsdowne Laboratories, Tivic Health Systems, the National Button Battery Task Force, and the Global Injury Research Collaborative.


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