In April 1987, a census of children dependent on medical technology was carried out in Massachusetts to determine the one-month point prevalence. All medical and educational providers in the state who were likely to interact with such children were contacted and asked to complete a two-sided data form on youngsters (aged 3 months to 18 years) with tracheostomies, supplementary oxygen, respirators, suctioning, gastric feeding, central venous lines, ostomies, ureteral diversion, urethral catheterization and dialysis. Nearly 1250 children were found meeting these criteria. Capture-recapture analysis set the lower bound for technology dependence at 0.08% of the state's children. An analysis of the organ systems involved showed that 57% of the children had neurologic involvement—13% multisystem, 7% gastrointestinal-metabolic, 4% renal-genitourinary, and 3% musculoskeletal. Less than 1% of the children were reported as having immunologic or "other" disorders. Review of putative etiologies indicated that 45% of the children had congenital anomalies, 33% chronic medical diseases, 9% perinatal conditions, 7% hereditary-genetic disorders, 5% injuries, 2% infections, and 3% "other." The substantial prevalence of technology dependency among children creates challenges at the social, economic, and policymaking levels. It will be important to carry out systematic reporting and monitoring activities throughout time and across sites. This census is an example of one such statewide effort.
- Received May 5, 1990.
- Accepted July 6, 1990.
- Copyright © 1991 by the American Academy of Pediatrics