• Article
  • December 6, 2016

Pediatric Patients with Existing Mental Health Conditions Have Longer Hospital Stays

Children hospitalized for medical or surgical procedures who have an existing mental health condition stay in the hospital longer than children without these conditions, according to new research, "Mental Health Conditions and Medical and Surgical Hospital Utilization," published online Nov. 11 in Pediatrics. This is the first study to show how comorbid mental health conditions, such as anxiety, ADHD and depression can impact a child's care in the hospital.

Investigating 670,000 hospitalizations, the study team found that existing mental health conditions were present in one in seven medical and surgical hospitalizations of children aged 3 to 20. For nine types of surgical procedures, including appendectomy, knee procedures and gall bladder removal, having one mental health condition increased 61 percent of children's hospital stays by one day. In this same population, having two or more mental health conditions added one day to every child's stay.

For nine types of medical hospitalizations, such as chemotherapy, headache and diabetes, having one mental health condition added an extra day in the hospital for 28 percent of children. Furthermore, having two more mental health conditions added a day to 50 percent of these children's hospital stays.

These increases totaled nearly 32,000 additional hospital days nationwide in 2012, costing an additional $90 million.

"Most hospitalized children and their families are eager to go home as soon as they can—extra days in the hospital are missed days at school for kids, missed days at work for parents and a disruption to family routines,” says lead author Stephanie Doupnik, M.D., a researcher in PolicyLab at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Unfortunately, we're seeing that mental health conditions add a layer of complexity to hospital care that causes kids with mental health conditions to stay in the hospital longer and use additional resources."