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  • Publication # 13-RA005

People harmed by unintentional, non-fire-related carbon monoxide poisoning results in hospital costs of more than $26 million

Health Care Costs and Financing

Several situations can place people at risk for unintentional and non-fire-related carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. These include poorly ventilated heating systems, defective cooking appliances, portable generators, space heaters, and motor vehicle exhaust. These carbon monoxide poisonings kill approximately 450 people each year and hospitalizations for them cost more than $26 million each year.

Anne Elixhauser, Ph.D., a researcher with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) and colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed information on CO poisonings from inpatient and emergency department (ED) data contained in the 2007 AHRQ Hospitalization Cost and Utilization Project database. During 2007, there were 232,875 visits to the ED and 22,718 hospitalizations for this type of CO poisoning. The percentage deemed confirmed cases were 9 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Individuals aged 18 to 44 years had the highest rate of ED visits for confirmed cases, followed by those aged 0 to 17 years. However, the highest rate of hospitalization was for those aged 85 years or older. Female victims of poisoning visited EDs more often than men, but men were more likely to be hospitalized.

Rates of ED visits and hospitalizations were highest for residents of nonmetropolitan areas in the Northeast and Midwest. More than 60 percent of exposures to CO occurred at home. The mortality rate was 0.2 percent in the ED and 2.1 percent after hospitalization. When hospitalized, patients stayed an average of 4.9 days at a cost of $11,381. Higher rates of ED visits and hospitalizations were found for the winter months of November to March. The researchers recommend that prevention strategies continue to focus on educating the public about using CO alarms in the home.

More details are in "Hospital burden of unintentional carbon monoxide poisoning in the United States, 2007," by Shahed Iqbal, Ph.D., Huay-Zong Law, B.S., Dr. Elixhauser, and others in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine 30, pp. 657-664, 2012. Reprints (AHRQ Publication No. 12-R095) are available from the AHRQ Publications Clearinghouse.


Page last reviewed February 2013
Internet Citation: People harmed by unintentional, non-fire-related carbon monoxide poisoning results in hospital costs of more than $26 million: Health Care Costs and Financing. February 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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