Objectives: Many emergency departments do not perform pulse oximetry in triage, in spite of its potential for altering management decisions. We attempted to quantify the decrease in patient throughput time in a pediatric emergency department following the introduction of triage pulse oximetry.
Methods: One hundred fifty-nine bronchiolitis patients from 2004 served as the preintervention group, and were evaluated against 89 severity-matched postintervention bronchiolitis patients from 2005. Their mean lengths of ED stay were compared by a t test.
Results: The preintervention group had a mean length of stay of 4 hours and 59 minutes, and the postintervention group had a mean length of stay of 4 hours and 9 minutes, which was significantly different (P = 0.03). The sensitivity of respiratory distress on the triage exam for predicting hypoxia was fair (74%).
Conclusions: Institution of triage pulse oximetry significantly decreases ED throughput times. Clinical exam alone is not a replacement for measurement of oxygen saturation.