Study: 16 children hospitalized daily with gunshot injuries


Credit: Scott Olson

Credit: Scott Olson


A New York university professor and pediatrics doctor said Thursday the number of children who are hospitalized daily because of firearm injuries is “horrifying.”

Dr. Alyssa Silver, an attending physician and assistant professor of pediatrics in Children's Hospital at Montefiore/Albert Einstein College of Medicine Division of Pediatric Hospital Medicine, took a close look at the number of children injured by guns. CNN reported. She found that roughly 16 children a day, or an estimated 5,862 a year, were hospitalized due to firearm injuries in 2012. However, she believes that the total number of children who are shot is much higher. The data don't include children who die in the emergency room or before they get to the hospital, nor does it include those who are treated and released, CNN reported.

Someone is shot in America every 4 minutes and 44 seconds, or about 111,000 people every year, according to research published in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery. Silver wanted to know how many of those victims were children. She looked at the most recent data available, from the 2012 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Kids' Inpatient Database, which tracks hospital stays for children, CNN reported.

Silver, who is giving a presentation about the numbers at the Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco this week, said the figures were actually down about 20 percent from a study of 2009 data. That sounds like good news, but, "I think most people would agree one child being shot is too many," Silver told CNN.

Silver said she was particularly struck by the fact that the majority of the children under 15 hospitalized with gunshot wounds were unintentionally injured. She said these accidents could easily have been prevented if the guns had been locked up, CNN reported. An estimated one out of three U.S. homes with children has a gun, and about 1.7 million American children live in homes with unlocked and loaded guns, CNN reported.

In older children, the background changes. Most of those between 15 and 19 were shot in an intentional assault, according to Silver's research. This age group makes up the largest number of victims, more than 83 percent.

The vast majority of children hospitalized for gunshots, 87.6 percent, were male. More than half of the children who had been hospitalized were African-American, CNN reported.

These injuries cost $130 million in hospital bills in 2012, an average of $22,644 per stay, CNN reported. Most of the children were hospitalized for six days due to the severity of their injuries, and most needed extensive follow-up treatment once they were released. In addition to physical therapy, many need mental health care.

Dr. John Leventhal, author of the study on the 2009 data, thinks that if there were indeed 20 percent fewer children shot in 2012, it could be a significant finding. However, he cautions that three years of data is too little time to detect a trend. "You can't get too excited about a decrease yet," he told CNN.

Data on all these topics are published by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. President Donald Trump's budget proposed eliminating it and merging it with the National Institutes of Health, which also would face a huge budget cut if the Trump proposal went through, CNN reported.

"This is really important information that gives us important insight into what is happening with child health in the United States, and this study shows us another reason why we need to keep it," Leventhal told CNN.