Original Article

Chest Radiography Should Be Requested Only on Admission Based on Clinical Grounds

Authors: Zvi Shimoni, MD, Michal Rosenberg, MD, Leeor Amit, MD, Paul Froom, MD

Abstract

Objectives: To determine the clinical utility and adverse consequences of routine admission chest x-ray (CXR) findings in patients with and without respiratory complaints and/or an abnormal chest examination.

Methods: In this prospective cohort study in an internal medicine department, we selected 273 patients and determined outcomes by chart review and physician interviews. The patients were divided into those with and without respiratory tract symptoms and/or findings on chest examination. The outcome variables were appropriate or inappropriate changes in treatment based on CXR findings.

Results: Of the 35 patients with respiratory tract symptoms/signs, 7 (20%) had a change in therapy based on CXR findings, which was effective in 5 of them. In the other 238 patients, an unexpected pleural empyema was detected in a hypotensive dialysis patient (0.4%, 95% confidence interval 0–2.3). Besides costs and radiation exposure, major adverse effects included two patients (0.8%, 95% confidence interval 0.1–3.0) with a false-positive test result that resulted in inappropriate hospitalizations and antibiotic therapy. In patients without respiratory tract symptoms or findings on physical examination, the clinical benefits and major adverse consequences were uncommon.

Conclusions: Admission CXRs in patients without respiratory tract symptoms or findings are unwarranted except perhaps in older adult patients with comorbidities and an unclear admitting diagnosis.

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