ACR appropriateness criteria routine chest radiographs in intensive care unit patients

J Am Coll Radiol. 2013 Mar;10(3):170-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2012.11.013.


Daily routine chest radiographs in the intensive care unit (ICU) have been a tradition for many years. Anecdotal reports of misplacement of life support items, acute lung processes, and extra pulmonary air collections in a small number of patients served as a justification for routine chest radiographs in the ICU. Having analyzed this practice, the ACR Appropriateness Criteria Expert Panel on Thoracic Imaging has made the following recommendations: • When monitoring a stable patient or a patient on mechanical ventilation in the ICU, a portable chest radiograph is appropriate for clinical indications only. • It is appropriate to obtain a chest radiograph after placement of an endotracheal tube, central venous line, Swan-Ganz catheter, nasogastric tube, feeding tube, or chest tube. The ACR Appropriateness Criteria are evidence-based guidelines for specific clinical conditions that are reviewed every 2 years by a multidisciplinary expert panel. The guideline development and review include an extensive analysis of current medical literature from peer-reviewed journals and the application of a well-established consensus methodology (modified Delphi) to rate the appropriateness of imaging and treatment procedures by the panel. In those instances where evidence is lacking or not definitive, expert opinion may be used to recommend imaging or treatment. The strongest data contributing to these recommendations were derived from a meta-analysis of 8 trials comprising 7,078 ICU patients by Oba and Zaza [1].

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Critical Care / standards*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / standards*
  • Point-of-Care Systems
  • Radiography, Thoracic / standards*