Healthcare Insights

Top 10 diagnoses at children’s hospitals

The first children’s hospital in the Western world, Hôpital des Enfants Malade, was founded in France in 1801. The hospital was followed by the proliferation of children’s hospitals in the 20th century, as pediatric medicine separated from adult medicine.  

Today, children’s hospitals serve a unique need on the healthcare continuum: providing care exclusively to infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. Most children’s hospitals can serve people from birth up to the age of 21.   

These facilities are characterized by a greater emphasis on the psychosocial support of children and their families. Children’s hospitals also serve as regional centers for research and preventive care.  

Our hospital database tracks 283 active children’s hospitals across the U.S. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the most frequent reasons for patient visits to children’s hospitals. 

Top 10 diagnoses at children's hospitals in 2021

RankICD-10 codeICD-10 description% total diagnosesExplore dataset
1Z20822Contact with and (suspected) exposure to COVID-191.10%Explore
2J9601Acute respiratory failure with hypoxia0.90%Explore
3Q211Atrial septal defect0.70%Explore
4Z4682Encounter for fitting and adjustment of non-vascular catheter0.70%Explore
5Z98890Other specified postprocedural states0.70%Explore
6Q250Patent ductus arteriosus0.70%Explore
7Z931Gastrostomy status0.70%Explore
8R918Other nonspecific abnormal finding of lung field0.70%Explore
9R509Fever, unspecified0.60%Explore

Fig. 1. Data is from the Definitive Healthcare ClaimsMx product for calendar year 2021. Claims data is sourced from multiple medical claims clearinghouses in the United States and is updated monthly. Data is accurate as of December 2022. 

Which conditions had the most patient visits?  

ICD-10 code Z20822, contact with and (suspected) exposure to Covid-19, was the most frequent inpatient diagnosis behind children’s hospital visits, with 1.1% of total diagnoses in 2021. Pediatric Covid-19 infection is typically mild and frequently asymptomatic. There is a low risk of severe illness or death in children who contract Covid-19. 

The second most common diagnosis was ICD-10 code J9601, or acute respiratory failure with hypoxia. Accounting for 0.9% of total diagnoses, this condition occurs when the respiratory system cannot sufficiently provide oxygen to the body. Acute respiratory failure is often caused by a disease or injury, such as asthma.   

The third most frequent reason for visits to children’s hospitals was atrial septal defect (ASD) or ICD-10 code Q211. ASDs represented 0.7% of total hospital inpatient diagnoses at children’s hospitals in 2021. An ASD is a birth defect in which there is an abnormal opening in the heart between the upper chambers (atria). It is one of the most common types of congenital heart defects. Small defects usually spontaneously close in childhood. Large defects that do not close naturally may require intervention.  

What is the best children’s hospital in the U.S.?  

Ten hospitals achieved a place on the U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals 2022-2023 Honor Roll. The Honor Roll highlights the top children’s hospitals with high clinical and reputational rankings across multiple specialties. The top three hospitals were Boston Children’s Hospital, Texas Children’s Hospital, and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.  

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