Group A Streptococcal Pharyngitis Testing Appropriateness in Pediatric Acute Care Settings

Pediatr Emerg Care. 2022 Jan 1;38(1):e231-e233. doi: 10.1097/PEC.0000000000002223.


Objective: Acute pharyngitis is one of the most common causes of ambulatory clinic visits; however, group A Streptococcus accounts for less than a third. National guidelines recommend against streptococcal testing in patients with viral features. This study aims to assess the rate of inappropriate streptococcal rapid antigen detection tests (RADT)s in children evaluated in urgent care clinics (UCC)s and emergency department (ED)s at a children's hospital.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed charts of 10% of children 3 years or older with RADTs ordered between April and September 2018 at EDs and UCCs. The test was determined to be inappropriate if the patient had no sore throat and/or had 2 or more viral symptoms: rhinorrhea/congestion, cough, diarrhea, hoarseness, conjunctivitis, or viral exanthem.

Results: Over the study period, 7678 RADTs were performed, of which 7024 (91.2%) were in children 3 years or older. We evaluated 708 charts and found 44% of RADTs were inappropriate. The predicted probability of inappropriate RADT was highest among patients with a triaged reason for visit for respiratory complaints (70.5%), viral upper respiratory tract infection (69.7%), and rash (61.3%). Of the inappropriate RADTs, 20.1% were positive, whereas 32.2% of the appropriate RADTs were positive.

Conclusion: Quality improvement initiatives are needed to decrease the rate of inappropriate RADTs in pediatric UCC and ED settings.

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Bacterial
  • Child
  • Humans
  • Pharyngitis* / diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Streptococcal Infections* / diagnosis
  • Streptococcus pyogenes


  • Antigens, Bacterial