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Children’s Minnesota doctors’ study shows increase in ER visits from self-inflicted injuries among teens

Emergency room visits for self-inflicted injuries among U.S. teens increased from 1.1 percent in 2009 to 1.6 percent in 2012, according to a study by Drs. Gretchen Cutler and Anupam Kharbanda of Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

The study, “Emergency Department Visits for Self-Inflicted Injuries in Adolescents,” published today in the July issue of Pediatrics, examines 286,678 adolescent trauma patients, 3,664 of whom sustained a self-inflicted injury (SII).

The study aimed to describe ER visits for self-inflicted injuries in teens from 2009-2012 by tracking trends in mechanism of injury and identifying factors associated with increased risk of self-harm behaviors. The most common form of SII are cutting and/or piercing injuries, while firearm injuries decreased.

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RESOURCES: Patient and family education materials about cutting

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Other findings 

  • Females are more likely to experience cutting and/or piercing injuries and higher ER-visit rates than males.
  • Males are at greater risk of dying from their injuries, likely due to their use of more lethal forms of injury such as firearms.
  • Teens with comorbid conditions, especially those with greater than two conditions, are at the greatest risk for SII.
  • The authors found that risk of SII is lower in African American adolescents than in white teens.
  • Teens with public or no health insurance are at increased risk of death from their injuries than those with private insurance.

The authors conclude that these findings identify potential subgroups of adolescents who would benefit from SII-prevention efforts.

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RESOURCES: Patient and family education materials on emotions and behavior

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The research showcases the leadership role Children’s plays within this community and nationally when it comes to caring for children. Stories about the study also appear in the Star TribuneHealthDay and MedPage Today.

Gretchen Cutler, MD, is a scientific investigator for the Center for Acute Care Outcomes and Anupam Kharbanda, MD, is an emergency department physician at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.