Characteristics of pediatric emergency department visits before and during the COVID-19 pandemic: a report from the National Emergency Department Information System (NEDIS) of Korea, 2018-2022.
: As of 2018, approximately 1.2 million pediatric patients visited emergency departments (EDs) in Korea, showing a steady increase. Given the distinct differences between children and adults, it is vital to examine the epidemiological characteristics of pediatric patients visiting the ED. : This study retrospectively analyzed the ED use patterns of pediatric patients <18 years old in Korea from January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2022, using data from the National Emergency Department Information System (NEDIS). : Most pediatric ED patients were boys, with an average age of 6.6±5.3 years. Patients younger than 1 year and those in critical condition had longer ED stays and more frequently required hospital admission and used the 119-ambulance service. The primary symptom was fever, and the most common discharge diagnosis was gastroenteritis. Following the declaration of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, ED visits decreased by 49%. Meanwhile, there was an increase in in-hospital mortality rate/age- and sex-standardized mortality rate per 100,000 ED visits, Admission and transfer rates remained similar between before and after the start of the pandemic. : Through this analysis, we identified the characteristics of pediatric patients visiting EDs in Korea. We observed a sharp decline in ED visits after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. From there, ED visits slowly increased but remained below prepandemic levels for 3 years. This research will serve as a foundational resource for appropriately allocating and preparing pediatric ED resources.