Return visits to the pediatric emergency department: A multicentre retrospective cohort study

Colin B. Meyer-Macaulay, Mimi Truong, Garth D. Meckler, Quynh H. Doan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Objective Return visits to the emergency department (RTED) for the same clinical complaint occur in 2.7% to 8.1% of children presenting to pediatric emergency departments (PEDs). Most studies examining RTEDs have focused solely on PEDs and do not capture children returning to other local emergency departments (EDs). Our objective was to measure the frequency and characterize the directional pattern of RTED to any of 18 EDs serving a large geographic area for children initially evaluated at a PED.Methods We conducted a retrospective cohort study of all visits to a referral centre PED between August 2012 and August 2013. We compared demographic variables between children with and without an RTED, measures of flow and disposition outcomes between the initial (index) visit and RTED, and between RTED to the original PED versus to other EDs in the community.Results Among all PED visits, 7.6% had an RTED within 7 days, of which 13% were to a facility other than the original PED. Children with an RTED had higher acuity and longer length of stay on their index visit. They were also more likely to be admitted on a subsequent visit than the overall PED population. RTED to the original PED had a longer waiting time (WT), length of stay, and more frequently resulted in hospitalization than RTED to a general ED.Conclusions A significant proportion of RTED occur at a site other than where the original ED visit occurred. Examining RTED to and from only PEDs underestimates its burden on emergency health services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)578-585
Number of pages8
JournalCanadian Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Return visits
  • emergency health services
  • healthcare access
  • healthcare utilization
  • patient flow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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