MONDAY, June 20, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Pediatric emergency medical encounters related to physical abuse were reduced during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a study published online June 16 in Pediatrics.

Barbara H. Chaiyachati, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia, and colleagues conducted a retrospective study within the Pediatric Emergency Care Applied Research Network Registry to examine the change in the rate of emergency department encounters related to child physical abuse before (January 2018 to March 2020) and during (April 2020 to March 2021) the COVID-19 pandemic. Encounters related to child physical abuse were identified by child physical abuse diagnoses among all ages, age-restricted high-risk injury, or age-restricted skeletal survey completion.

The researchers found that for two of the three identification methods, encounter rates decreased significantly. Encounter rates were reduced by 19 percent in the diagnosis-code cohort (adjusted rate ratio, 0.81) in the fully adjusted model; the greatest reduction was seen in preschool- and school-aged children. There was a 10 percent decrease in encounter rates in the injury cohort (adjusted rate ratio, 0.90). Rates of lower-severity encounters were significantly reduced for all three methods, whereas higher-severity encounters were not.

“Although a reduction could be reassuring, there was no evidence of a reduction in the rates of higher-severity injuries,” the authors write. “This pattern calls for additional critical assessment to clarify the role of decreased recognition and the associated potential for unrecognized harm experienced by children during the COVID-19 pandemic versus true reduction related to novel protective factors.”

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