Child maltreatment is poorly documented in clinical data. The International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-10-CM) represents the first time that confirmed and suspected child maltreatment can be distinguished in medical coding. The utility of this distinction in practice remains unknown. This study aims to evaluate the application of these codes by patient demographic characteristics and injury type.
We conducted secondary data analysis of emergency department (ED) discharge records of children under 18 years with an ICD-10-CM code for confirmed (T74) or suspected (T76) child maltreatment. Child age, sex, race/ethnicity, insurance status and co-occurring injuries (S00-T88) were compared by maltreatment type (confirmed or suspected).
From 2016 to 2018, child maltreatment was documented in 1650 unique ED visits, or 21.7 per 10 000 child ED visits. Suspected maltreatment was documented most frequently (58%). Half of all maltreatment-related visits involved sexual abuse, most often in females and individuals of non-Hispanic white race. Physical abuse was coded in 36% of visits; injuries to the head were predominant. Non-Hispanic black children were more frequently documented with confirmed physical abuse than suspected (38.7% vs 23.7%, p<0.01). The rate of co-occurring injuries documented with confirmed and suspected maltreatment differed by 30% (9.2 vs 12.5 per 10 000 ED visits, respectively).
The ability to discriminate confirmed and suspected maltreatment may help mitigate clinical barriers to maltreatment surveillance associated with delayed diagnosis and subsequent intervention. Racial disparities in suspected and confirmed cases were identified which may indicate biased diagnostic behaviours in the ED.