Emergency department documentation of legal intervention injuries at a Washington, DC, hospital

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Academic emergency medicine : official journal of the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine




BACKGROUND: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines legal intervention injuries as injuries caused by law enforcement agents in the course of official duties. Public health databases utilize International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision (ICD-10), coding to collect these data through the "Y35" family ICD-10 code. Prior studies report deficiencies in public health recording of fatal legal intervention injuries. Few studies have characterized nonfatal injuries. This study investigates emergency department (ED) capture of legal intervention injury diagnostic coding. METHODS: A retrospective chart review was performed on ED encounter data from January 1, 2017, to June 30, 2019, at an academic hospital in Washington, DC. Charts were identified using a keyword search program for "police." Chart abstracters reviewed the flagged charts and abstracted those that met injury definition. Primary outcomes included injury severity, patient demographics, and documented ICD-10 codes. One sample proportion testing was performed comparing sample census ED data. RESULTS: A total of 340 encounters had sufficient descriptions of legal intervention injuries. A total of 259 had descriptions consistent with the patient specifier of "suspect." Hospital coders recorded 74 charts (28.6%) with the Y35 family legal intervention injury code. A total of 212 involved a Black patient. A total of 122 patients had Medicaid and 94 were uninsured. Black patients made up a higher proportion of individuals in the "suspect identified legal intervention injury" group than the total population (0.819 vs. 0.609, p < 0.01, 95% CI 0.772-0.866). Patients with Medicaid or who were uninsured made up substantial proportions as well (0.471 vs. 0.175, p < 0.01, 95% CI 0.410-0.532 for Medicaid patients and 0.363 vs. 0.155, p < 0.01, 95% CI 0.304-0.424 for the uninsured patients). CONCLUSION: A large proportion of nonfatal legal intervention injuries remain unreported. Black and low-income patients are disproportionately affected. More research is needed but benefits from interprofessional data sharing, injury pattern awareness, and diagnostic coding guidance may improve reporting.


Emergency Medicine