Practice variation in the management for nontraumatic pediatric patients in the ED

Am J Emerg Med. 2010 Mar;28(3):275-83. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2008.11.021.


Study objective: To improve the management quality and monitoring for common pediatric illnesses in the general emergency department (ED), we examined the effect of physician specialty training on medical resource use and patient outcomes.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort review of visits by children less than 18 years to the ED of 2 university-affiliated teaching hospitals. Clinical management by 2 groups (emergency physicians [EPs] and pediatricians each working 168 h/wk) was compared with respect to demographics, ED resource use, short-term outcome, disposition, direct ED costs for each visit, and frequency of radiographic and laboratory test use. The effects of medical decision making on resource use was assessed by comparing costs of radiographic studies, laboratory studies, and medication.

Results: Between-group differences in mean patient age, sex, and triage category were insignificant. Compared to pediatricians, EPs used radiographic and laboratory studies more frequently (respectively, 10.1% and 3.8% higher frequency and 90.5% and 7.6% higher cost) and less medication (12.5% lower cost). Patients managed by EPs had longer ED length of stay (LOS), higher admission rates to general wards, and shorter LOS per hospitalization but similar 72-hour revisit rates, needed more frequent referral for medical reasons, and left more frequently against medical advice.

Conclusion: Emergency physicians spent more time and medical resources and admitted patients at a higher rate. Emergency physicians and pediatricians managed critical patients similarly.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Teaching
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Patient Admission / statistics & numerical data
  • Pediatrics / education*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Triage