Objectives: To determine the proportion of radiographs inconsistent with bronchiolitis in children with typical presentation of bronchiolitis and to compare rates of intended antibiotic therapy before radiography versus those given antibiotics after radiography.
Study design: We conducted a prospective cohort study in a pediatric emergency department of 265 infants aged 2 to 23 months with radiographs showing either airway disease only (simple bronchiolitis), airway and airspace disease (complex bronchiolitis), and inconsistent diagnoses (eg, lobar consolidation).
Results: The rate of inconsistent radiographs was 2 of 265 cases (0.75%; 95% CI 0-1.8). A total of 246 children (92.8%) had simple radiographs, and 17 radiographs (6.9%) were complex. To identify 1 inconsistent and 1 complex radiograph requires imaging 133 and 15 children, respectively. Of 148 infants with oxygen saturation >92% and a respiratory disease assessment score <10 of 17 points, 143 (96.6%) had a simple radiograph, compared with 102 of 117 infants (87.2%) with higher scores or lower saturation (odds ratio, 3.9; 95% CI, 1.3-14.3). Seven infants (2.6%) were identified for antibiotics pre-radiography; 39 infants (14.7%) received antibiotics post-radiography (95% CI, 8-16).
Conclusions: Infants with typical bronchiolitis do not need imaging because it is almost always consistent with bronchiolitis. Risk of airspace disease appears particularly low in children with saturation higher than 92% and mild to moderate distress.