Impact of a clinical decision model for febrile children at risk for serious bacterial infections at the emergency department: a randomized controlled trial

PLoS One. 2015 May 29;10(5):e0127620. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0127620. eCollection 2015.


Objectives: To assess the impact of a clinical decision model for febrile children at risk for serious bacterial infections (SBI) attending the emergency department (ED).

Methods: Randomized controlled trial with 439 febrile children, aged 1 month-16 years, attending the pediatric ED of a Dutch university hospital during 2010-2012. Febrile children were randomly assigned to the intervention (clinical decision model; n = 219) or the control group (usual care; n = 220). The clinical decision model included clinical symptoms, vital signs, and C-reactive protein and provided high/low-risks for "pneumonia" and "other SBI". Nurses were guided by the intervention to initiate additional tests for high-risk children. The clinical decision model was evaluated by 1) area-under-the-receiver-operating-characteristic-curve (AUC) to indicate discriminative ability and 2) feasibility, to measure nurses' compliance to model recommendations. Primary patient outcome was defined as correct SBI diagnoses. Secondary process outcomes were defined as length of stay; diagnostic tests; antibiotic treatment; hospital admission; revisits and medical costs.

Results: The decision model had good discriminative ability for both pneumonia (n = 33; AUC 0.83 (95% CI 0.75-0.90)) and other SBI (n = 22; AUC 0.81 (95% CI 0.72-0.90)). Compliance to model recommendations was high (86%). No differences in correct SBI determination were observed. Application of the clinical decision model resulted in less full-blood-counts (14% vs. 22%, p-value < 0.05) and more urine-dipstick testing (71% vs. 61%, p-value < 0.05).

Conclusions: In contrast to our expectations no substantial impact on patient outcome was perceived. The clinical decision model preserved, however, good discriminatory ability to detect SBI, achieved good compliance among nurses and resulted in a more standardized diagnostic approach towards febrile children, with less full blood-counts and more rightfully urine-dipstick testing.

Trial registration: Nederlands Trial Register NTR2381.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Decision-Making / methods*
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Models, Biological*
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial* / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial* / therapy
  • Pneumonia, Bacterial* / urine
  • Risk Factors

Associated data

  • NTR/NTR2381

Grants and funding

Authors EK and RN are supported by ZonMW, the Dutch organization for Health Research and Development, and Erasmus University Medical Centre Rotterdam. Author RO is supported by a fellowship of the European Society of Pediatric Infectious Diseases. No funding bodies had any role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.