Implementation of clinical decision rules in the emergency department

Acad Emerg Med. 2007 Nov;14(11):955-9. doi: 10.1197/j.aem.2007.06.039. Epub 2007 Oct 8.


Clinical decision rules (CDRs) are tools designed to help clinicians make bedside diagnostic and therapeutic decisions. The development of a CDR involves three stages: derivation, validation, and implementation. Several criteria need to be considered when designing and evaluating the results of an implementation trial. In this article, the authors review the results of implementation studies evaluating the effect of four CDRs: the Ottawa Ankle Rules, the Ottawa Knee Rule, the Canadian C-Spine Rule, and the Canadian CT Head Rule. Four implementation studies demonstrated that the implementation of CDRs in the emergency department (ED) safely reduced the use of radiography for ankle, knee, and cervical spine injuries. However, a recent trial failed to demonstrate an impact on computed tomography imaging rates. Well-developed and validated CDRs can be successfully implemented into practice, efficiently standardizing ED care. However, further research is needed to identify barriers to implementation in order to achieve improved uptake in the ED.

MeSH terms

  • Ankle Injuries
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnosis
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Fractures, Bone / diagnosis
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / diagnosis
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Spinal Injuries / diagnosis