Records from the Kid’s Inpatient Database (KID) — the largest database of pediatric patients admitted to hospitals in the U.S. — show that more than twice as many girls as boys were diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 2016.
The data shows that 259 boys and 610 girls younger than age 18 were diagnosed that year with the progressive neurodegenerative disorder.
The study reporting the findings, titled “Pediatric multiple sclerosis in the United States in children ages 0–18,” was published in the journal Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.
Just 5% of all MS cases are diagnosed in children and adolescents before they reach age 18. In children, the disease is called pediatric MS. A diagnosis before age 1 is rare, and accounts for only 1% of MS cases.
The rarity of pediatric MS makes the condition poorly characterized. To learn more, the researchers now analyzed 2016 data from the KID database. This is the largest publicly available pediatric inpatient care database in the U.S., and includes data from more than 3 million young patients — under age 21 — admitted to 4,000 hospitals over 40 states.
The team limited their analysis to children ages 18 or younger, accounting for a total of 5,765,224 hospital admissions registered on KID.
The results showed that among patients diagnosed with MS, 29.8% were male (259 patients), and 70.2% female (610 patients), indicating a higher MS prevalence among girls.
White (Caucasian) children were the most frequently diagnosed, accounting for 40% of the cases (318 children). The highest admission rate was found in the U.S. Southern region, accounting for 44% of the cases (382 diagnoses).
The team also found that 97 cases were diagnosed in September, making it the month with the highest number of cases — although the difference between months was considered not statistically significant.
On average, hospital admissions lasted for 4.62 days. The researchers calculated that families spent a mean of $50,379.72 on hospital charges. More than half of the patients were supported by Medicaid (51.2%, 445 cases), followed by private insurances (40.9%, 355 cases).
Overall, and similar when compared with adults with MS, the researchers found that both female sex and Caucasian race were factors linked with a higher MS prevalence in children.
“Multiple sclerosis is a multifactorial condition and our study showed that pediatric multiple sclerosis had a male to female admission ratio of 1:2.4,” the researchers said.
Although further research is needed, the team said they believe this study “can be used as a stepping stone to further clinically investigate the findings” in pediatric MS.
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