• aboriginal health;
  • bronchiolitis;
  • childhood disease;
  • Indigenous Australian;
  • paediatric;
  • respiratory

Objective:  To describe the characteristics of children admitted to Royal Darwin Hospital with bronchiolitis, and to compare the severity of illness and incidence of subsequent readmission in Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.

Design, Setting and Participants:  Retrospective study of 101 children (aged ≤2 years) hospitalised with bronchiolitis to Royal Darwin Hospital between April 2005 and December 2006.

Main Outcome Measures:  Admission characteristics and indices of severity, treatment required (antibiotics etc.), reasons and incidence of readmissions (within 6 months).

Results:  Indigenous children had significantly more severe illness then non-Indigenous children (n= 80 and 21, respectively), longer hospital stay (median = 6 and 3 days; P= 0.001) and oxygen requirement (median = 3 and 0; P= 0.004), pneumonia (n= 14 and 0; P= 0.04) and antibiotics treatment (48 and 4; P= 0.001). The readmission rate for bronchiolitis was high (23%) with no significant difference between Indigenous and non-Indigenous children.

Conclusion:  Indigenous Australian children hospitalised with bronchiolitis have significantly more severe illness than non-Indigenous children. Points of intervention that can address this and the identified high readmission rate (within 6 months) are required.