The Pittsburgh Decision Rule: triage nurse versus physician utilization in the emergency department

J Emerg Med. 2006 Oct;31(3):247-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2005.12.020.


The Pittsburgh Decision Rule (PDR) is a rule for ordering knee radiographs in patients with acute knee injuries. This study was designed to compare the utilization of the PDR between triage nurses and physicians. Consecutive patients presenting to the Emergency Department were enrolled. Nurses and physicians were blinded to each other's examinations. Of 182 subjects approached, 30 were excluded for incomplete data or refusal to obtain radiographs, leaving 152 subjects enrolled. Thirteen fractures (8.6%) were identified. Kappa scores were high for each component of the rule: mechanism of injury (fall or blunt trauma) kappa = 0.67, age (< 12 or > 50 years) kappa = 1, inability to ambulate kappa = 0.67 and overall kappa = 0.83. Four of 13 fractures (31%) would have been missed using the PDR, resulting in a sensitivity of 77% for both physicians and nurses, and a specificity of 57% for physicians and 58% for nurses. Triage nurses and physicians were able to apply the PDR to patients who presented with acute knee injuries with a high level of agreement. However, the PDR demonstrated poor sensitivity in this patient population.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Decision Support Systems, Clinical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurses*
  • Outcome and Process Assessment, Health Care / methods*
  • Physicians*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards
  • Radiography
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Triage / methods
  • Triage / standards*