Cunningham, R. M., Ranney, M., Newton, M., Woodhull, W., Zimmerman, M., & Walton, M. A. (2014). Characteristics of youth seeking emergency care for assault injuries. Pediatrics, 133(1), e96-e105.
Objective: To characterize youth seeking care for assault injuries, the context of violence, and previous emergency department (ED) service utilization to inform ED-based injury prevention.
Methods: A consecutive sample of youth (14-24) presenting to an urban ED with an assault injury completed a survey of partner violence, gun/knife victimization, gang membership, and context of the fight.
Results: A total of 925 youth entered the ED with an assault injury; 718 completed the survey (15.4% refused); 730 comparison youth were sampled. The fights leading to the ED visit occurred at home (37.6%) or on streets (30.4%), and were commonly with a known person (68.3%). Fights were caused by issues of territory (23.3%) and retaliation (8.9%); 20.8% of youth reported substance use before the fight. The assault-injured group reported more peer/partner violence and more gun experiences. Assault-injured youth reported higher past ED utilization for assault (odds ratio [OR]: 2.16) or mental health reasons (OR: 7.98). Regression analysis found the assault-injured youth had more frequent weapon use (OR: 1.25) and substance misuse (OR: 1.41).
Conclusions: Assault-injured youth seeking ED care report higher levels of previous violence, weapon experience, and substance use compared with a comparison group seeking care for other complaints. Almost 10% of assault-injured youth had another fight-related ED visit in the previous year, and ~5% had an ED visit for mental health. Most fights were with people known to them and for well-defined reasons, and were therefore likely preventable. The ED is a critical time to interact with youth to prevent future morbidity.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01152970.
Keywords: alcohol; assault; emergency department; injuries; youth.