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Respiratory Diseases Send More American Children to the Hospital Than Any Other Illness

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AHRQ News and Numbers

Release date: March 22, 2006

The most common reason why American children require hospital care, other than following birth, is the treatment of respiratory disorders, according to the Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

  • Respiratory disorders—primarily asthma, pneumonia and acute bronchitis and bronchiolitis—account for roughly 23 percent of hospital stays among all children ages 17 and younger. The number of hospitalizations for each of these conditions range from 166,000 to 154,000 annually.
  • Next in importance are digestive disorders, including appendicitis (81,000 cases) and gastroenteritis (76,000 cases). Digestive diseases account for 12 percent of all children's hospital stays.
  • Nervous system conditions rank third in frequency, resulting in nearly 8 percent of children's hospital stays. Included in this category are epilepsy or convulsions (68,000 cases annually), and meningitis (29,000 cases annually).
  • In fourth place are endocrine, nutritional, and metabolic disorders. These conditions, which include fluid and electrolyte disorders (120,000 cases annually)—a problem primarily associated with vomiting and diarrhea—and diabetes (31,000 cases annually), account for 7 percent of all hospital stays of children.
  • The fifth most-common condition is teenage pregnancy (170,000 cases annually).
  • The sixth most-common conditions are mental disorders and substance abuse (153,000 cases annually).
  • Four million hospital stays are needed annually for the care of newborn infants, representing 63 percent of all hospital stays for children ages 17 and younger.

These statistics are from the Kids' Inpatient Database, part of AHRQ's Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project (HCUP). This project comprises a family of databases and related software tools developed through a Federal-State-industry partnership and sponsored by AHRQ. HCUP includes the largest set of publicly available databases on all patients in the United States, regardless of type of insurance or whether the patients had insurance. To access the HCUP databases, go to

For more information, or to speak with an AHRQ expert regarding HCUP data, please contact Bob Isquith at or call (301) 427-1539.


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