Objective We aimed to determine the cost burden and epidemiology of hospital-treated, tap water scald burns in the United States to inform consideration of policy proposals to require thermostatic mixing valves with all new water heaters.
Methods A retrospective, cross-sectional study was performed using the 2016–2018 National Inpatient Sample (NIS) and Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS) from the Healthcare Cost and Utilisation Project (HCUP). We queried the samples to examine the prevalence, cost, and epidemiology of hospital-treated, tap water scald burns.
Results The NIS and NEDS identified 52 088 (weighted) emergency department (ED) visits, 7270 (weighted) hospitalisations and 110 hospital-based deaths attributable to tap water scald burns in 2016–2018. The average cost for each encounter was $572 per ED visit and $28 431 per hospitalisation. In aggregate, the direct healthcare cost of these initial encounters was $206.69 million for inpatient (IP) visits and $29.79 million for ED visits. Medicare paid $109.54 million of these costs and Medicaid paid $18.3 million. Multiple body surfaces were involved in 35.4% of IP visits and 16.1% of ED visits.
Conclusions NIS and NEDS are valuable tools to examine the cost burden and epidemiology of hospital-treated, tap water scald burns. The high injuries, deaths, and overall cost of these scald burns suggest policy proposals are needed to require the use of thermostatic mixing valves.
The additional detail provided by using the International Classification of Diseases (ICD)-10 External Cause of Morbidity Code allows for a better understanding of the size and scope of tap water scald injuries than was possible with ICD-9.
Data availability statement
Data are available upon reasonable request.
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