Jun 20, 2017, 12:08:43 PM CDT Feb 23, 2023, 4:42:49 PM CST

Adult vs. pediatric hospital: What’s the difference?

Why you should choose a pediatric emergency room for your child

young girl listening to a teddy bear's heart beat young girl listening to a teddy bear's heart beat

If your child has a serious injury or illness, you know to take them to the nearest emergency department. But do you prioritize taking them to a pediatric hospital? Your child’s care requires experts who know how to tailor treatments to a growing body.

While both adult and pediatric emergency departments have the goal of saving each patient’s life and healing their ailments, pediatric departments are more specialized in treating children. In fact, each physician at Children’s Health℠ is specially trained in treating young patients. Children are all we care for here, and it allows us to deliver the best care for your child.

Children are not just “small adults”

“We pediatric surgeons and pediatricians like to say, ‘Children are not just small adults,’” says Stephen Megison, M.D., a pediatric surgeon at Children’s Health. “Their physiology is different.”

For example, there are significant differences between children and adults when it comes to a traumatic injury, which is why it is important to seek care at a Trauma Center that is dedicated to caring for children. Other examples include:

  • A child’s heart and vascular system is different than an adult’s. When a child is having a bleeding event, medical staff cannot refer to adult criteria when checking the patient’s vital signs — like blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration rate and temperature — because a child’s criteria is different. This means they could miss important signs of serious blood loss.
  • There are different injury patterns with fractures. Because children’s bones are more flexible and don’t fracture as easily, a fractured bone can cause a much bigger impact on a child’s body than an adult’s.
  • Smaller children have a bigger head-to-body ratio. This ratio means young children are more likely to have neck and head injuries than older children and adults. Pediatric ER staff know to look for head and neck injury warning signs specific to children.

Specialists who care

It’s also important to choose a pediatric emergency department whose providers specialize in pediatric-specific services, such as:

Learn more

Learn more about emergency care at Children's Health.

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