Each year, about 27 million children visit hospital emergency departments in the U.S.—about one-fifth of all visits. Despite this large number, only 6% of EDs have the necessary equipment and staff to care for kids in dire emergent need. Indeed, providers tend to view children as little adults when it comes to emergency medicine, and the results can be devastating.
By virtue of their anatomy and proclivities, children in medical crisis need equipment and expertise that can be markedly different from that needed to treat adults. Children's passageways and organs are smaller than grown-ups', meaning they often need tools and apparatus small enough to be effective. And of course, children are more likely to get themselves into unique predicaments, meaning that emergency-care providers must be experienced in responding to any variety of situations.
As one example, young children explore the world by placing objects in their mouths. Once there, objects can easily become lodged in the back of the throat, blocking passage of air. Anyone who has worked in an ED has witnessed this occurrence; an inexpensive pediatric-sized Magill forceps can remove items lodged in a child's trachea and save a life. Yet almost 20% of all EDs lack such an instrument.