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Pediatr Emerg Care. 2020 Jan;36(1):26-30. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000002018.

A Descriptive Analysis of Pediatric Prehospital Refusal of Medical Assistance Within a Single Service Provider System.

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From the Department of Emergency Medicine.
Mayo Clinic Medical Transport, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.



Pediatric refusal of medical assistance (RMA) is a potentially high-risk event with implications for both individual patient outcomes and greater emergency medical services system efficiency. The purpose of this study was to describe characteristics of pediatric RMA calls and outcomes.


Single emergency medical services agency retrospective study of calls between January 1, 2011, and December 31, 2015, for pediatric patients resulting in RMA was performed. Dispatch complaint-matched case-control group was generated from transported patients.


The percentage of pediatric calls that resulted in RMA was 12.7%, compared with 5% adult calls (P < 0.0001). The 3 most common RMA dispatch complaints were seizures, difficulty breathing, and traffic accidents. Furthermore, 65.1% pediatric RMA calls were emergently dispatched, compared with 56.4% of transported pediatric patients (P = 0.01). Medical control was contacted for 4.6% RMA calls. The average ± SD word count for RMA patient care narratives was 179 ± 99 words, compared with 164 ± 139 words for controls (P = 0.11). Documentation of risk-benefit discussion occurred in 28.6% RMA narratives. Outcome data were available for 83.8% RMA patients. The percentage of RMA patients with documented alternative plans who completed the alternative plan was 61.6%. Within 72 hours of RMA, 5.0% of calls with known outcome resulted in unexpected emergency department visit. No unexpected emergency department visits resulted in admission. Five percent of RMA patients were admitted; 1 patient was admitted to the intensive care unit. No emergent surgeries or deaths occurred during the study period.


Pediatric RMA is common within our study population, and two thirds involve emergent dispatch. Although outcomes are generally good, refusal documentation is sparse and medical control is seldom contacted. Multiple opportunities for systems improvement exist.

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