The effectiveness of a clinical practice guideline for the management of presumed uncomplicated urinary tract infection in women

Am J Med. 1999 Jun;106(6):636-41. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9343(99)00122-9.


Purpose: Acute uncomplicated urinary tract infection is a common and costly disorder in women. To reduce potentially unnecessary expense and inconvenience, a large staff-model health maintenance organization instituted a telephone-based clinical practice guideline for managing presumed cystitis in which women 18 to 55 years of age who met specific criteria were managed without a clinic visit or laboratory testing. We sought to evaluate the effects of the guideline.

Subjects and methods: We performed a population-based, before-and-after study with concurrent control groups at 24 primary care clinics to assess the effect of guideline implementation on resource utilization and on the occurrence of potential adverse outcomes. We measured the proportion of patients with presumed uncomplicated cystitis who had a return office visit for cystitis or sexually transmitted disease or who developed pyelonephritis within 60 days of the initial diagnosis. Relative risks (RR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were estimated, adjusting for the effects of clustering within clinics.

Results: A total of 3,889 eligible patients with presumed acute uncomplicated cystitis were evaluated. As compared with baseline, guideline implementation significantly decreased the proportion of patients with presumed cystitis who received urinalysis (RR = 0.75; CI, 0.70 to 0.80), urine culture (RR = 0.73; CI, 0.68 to 0.79), and an initial office visit (RR = 0.67; CI, 0.62 to 0.73), while increasing the proportion who received a guideline-recommended antibiotic 2.9-fold (CI, 2.4 to 3.7-fold). In the prospective comparison of the 22 intervention and two control clinics, the guideline decreased the proportion of patients who had urinalyses performed (RR = 0.80; CI, 0.65 to 0.98) and increased the proportion of patients who were prescribed a guideline-recommended antibiotic (RR = 1.53; CI, 1.01 to 2.33). Adverse outcomes did not increase significantly in either comparison.

Conclusion: Guideline use decreased laboratory utilization and overall costs while maintaining or improving the quality of care for patients who were presumptively treated for acute uncomplicated cystitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Cystitis / complications
  • Cystitis / diagnosis
  • Cystitis / therapy
  • Female
  • Health Maintenance Organizations / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Office Visits / statistics & numerical data
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pyelonephritis / diagnosis
  • Pyelonephritis / etiology
  • Pyelonephritis / therapy
  • Telephone
  • Urinary Tract Infections / diagnosis*
  • Urinary Tract Infections / therapy*
  • Washington