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More testing of febrile infants at teaching vs. community hospitals, but similar outcomes



Febrile infants were less likely to undergo invasive diagnostic testing at community hospitals versus university-affiliated ones, but had similar outcomes, according to a study presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting.

“The community hospitals are doing less procedures on the infants, but with basically the exact same outcomes,” said Beth C. Natt, MD, MPH, director of pediatric hospital medicine at Bridgeport (Conn.) Hospital.

Babies who presented to university-affiliated hospitals were more likely to be hospitalized (70% vs. 67%; P = .001) than were those at community hospitals, but had a similar likelihood of being diagnosed with bacteremia, meningitis, or urinary tract infection. The rates of missed bacterial infection were 0.8% for teaching hospitals and 1% for community hospitals (P = .346).

“There is some thought that in community settings, because we’re not completing the workup in the standard, protocolized way seen at teaching hospitals, we might be doing wrong by the children, but these data show we’re actually doing just fine,” Dr. Natt said in an interview.

She and her colleagues reviewed 9,884 febrile infant evaluations occurring at 132 hospitals participating in the Reducing Excessive Variation in the Infant Sepsis Evaluation (REVISE) quality improvement project. Two-thirds of the infants (n = 6,479) were evaluated across 78 university-affiliated hospitals and 3,405 (or 34%) were seen at 54 community hospitals. Hospital status was self-reported.

The teaching hospitals more often had at least one pediatric emergency medicine provider, compared with community hospitals (90% vs. 57%; P = .001) and were more likely to see babies between 7 and 30 days old (90% vs. 57%; P = .001). They also were more likely to obtain urine cultures (92% vs. 88%; P = 0.001), blood cultures (84% vs. 80%; P = .001), and cerebral spinal fluid cultures (62% vs. 57%; P = .001).

On the other hand, community hospitals were significantly more likely to see children presenting with respiratory symptoms (39% vs. 36% for teaching hospitals; P = .014), and were more likely to order chest x-rays on febrile infants (32% vs. 24% for university-affiliated hospitals; P = .001).

Dr. Beth C. Natt, director of pediatric hospital medicine at Bridgeport (Conn.) Hospital.

Dr. Beth C. Natt

“As a community hospitalist, the results weren’t that surprising to me,” said Dr. Natt. “If anything was surprising it was how often we were doing chest x-rays, but I think that had to do with the fact that we had more children with respiratory symptoms coming to community hospitals.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for fever were written last in 1993, when I was in high school, so they are very due to be revised,” said Dr. Natt. “I suspect the new guidelines will have us doing fewer spinal taps in children and more watchful waiting.”

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