(HealthDay News) – As patients with sickle cell disease make the transition from pediatric to adult health care they increasingly rely on the emergency department and incur higher associated costs, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology, held from Dec. 8–11 in Atlanta.

Morey A. Blinder, MD, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and colleagues used Medicaid data from more than 3,200 pediatric patients with sickle cell disease, including those transitioning from pediatric to adult care, to assess age-related patterns of emergency department reliance and associated heath care costs. Participants from five states were followed for an average of six years each.

The researchers found that, for pediatric patients with sickle cell disease who were between the ages of 15 and 24, there was an increase in the average number of emergency department visits per quarter, from 0.76 to 2.29. By age 36, emergency care use peaked at 2.9 visits per quarter. During the post-transition period, patients were more likely to have high emergency department reliance and incur higher inpatient and emergency department costs. For patients making heavier use of emergency departments, total health care costs were more than $7,000 higher per quarter.

“There seems to be a breakdown in medical care during the transition from childhood to adulthood,” Blinder said in a statement. “This study highlights an emerging problem in transitioning pediatric age patients to adulthood, and the need to explore new ways to facilitate that process.”

Several authors are employed by or have financial ties to Novartis, which funded the study.

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