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J Hosp Med. 2009 Mar;4(3):149-56. doi: 10.1002/jhm.388.

Persistent gap of incremental charges for obesity as a secondary diagnosis in common pediatric hospitalizations.

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Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.



To use hospitalization data from 2003 to determine whether prior findings, showing higher charges and longer lengths-of-stay (LOSs) for children with obesity versus those without, were stable over time and whether the magnitude of differences was consistent over a 4-year period.


Using the 2000 and 2003 Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Kids Inpatient Database (KID), we examined discharges for the top 4 nonpregnancy-related principal discharge diagnoses for children aged 2-18 years (asthma, pneumonia, affective disorders, and appendicitis), classified as with or without obesity based on the presence of the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) code 278.0x as a secondary diagnosis. We compared mean charges for hospitalizations with obesity listed as secondary diagnosis versus those without. Results are presented in 2003 dollars.


Among children's discharges in 2000 and 2003, 1.1% and 1.6%, respectively, listed obesity as a secondary diagnosis. In 2003, for all 4 diagnoses, adjusted mean hospital charges were statistically significantly higher and adjusted mean LOS was statistically significantly longer for discharges with obesity as a secondary diagnosis versus those without. Additionally, the magnitude of the differences for both charges and LOS was generally somewhat greater in 2003 than in 2000 (asthma 9%, pneumonia 17%, affective disorders 121%, and appendicitis 3%) although it did not achieve statistical significance (P > 0.05).


These findings suggest a widening gap of incremental charges and LOS associated with obesity as a comorbidity. This implies a financial imperative for further research to evaluate factors that contribute to greater resource utilization among obese children.

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