(HealthDay News) – The number of emergency department visits for battery-related incidents is rising significantly, particularly in boys under the age of 5 years, according to a study published online May 14 in Pediatrics.

Samantha J. Sharpe, from The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, and colleagues analyzed data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System for battery-related visits to emergency departments in the United States from 1990–2009. Diagnosis codes and case narratives were used to identify four battery exposure routes, including ingestion, mouth exposure, ear canal insertion, and nasal cavity insertion.

The researchers found that, over the 20-year study period, 65,788 patients (or an average of 3,289 cases per year) under the age of 18 years presented in emergency departments because of battery-related exposures. The number and rate of visits increased significantly over the 20-year period, with substantial increases during the final eight years. Patients had a mean age of 3.9 years, and 60.2% were boys. The majority of visits were for battery ingestion (76.6%), followed by nasal cavity insertion (10.2%), mouth exposure (7.5%), and ear canal insertion (5.7%). Button batteries were the biggest culprit, causing 83.8% of the visits for exposure to an identified battery type.

“The increasing number and rate of battery-related emergency department visits among children underscore the need for increased prevention efforts,” the authors conclude.

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