Objective: The objective of this study was to compare the rate and clinical yield of computed tomography (CT) imaging between patients presenting with abdominal pain initially seen by a physician in triage (PIT) versus those seen only by physicians working in the main emergency department (ED).
Methods: A retrospective study was conducted of all self-arrivals >18 years old presenting to a single ED with abdominal pain. Nine-hundred patients were randomly selected from both the PIT and traditional patient flow groups and rates and yields of CT imaging were compared, both alone and in a model controlling for potential confounders. Predetermined criteria for CT significance included need for admission, consult, or targeted medications.
Results: The overall rate of CT imaging (unadjusted) did not differ between the PIT and traditional groups, 48.7% (95% CI 45.4-51.9) vs. 45.1% (95% CI 41.8-48.4), respectively (p = .13). The CT yield for patients seen in in the PIT group was also similar to that of the traditional group: 49.1% (95% CI 44.4-53.8) vs. 50.5% (95% CI 45.6-55.4) (p = .68). In the logistic regression model, when controlling for age, gender, ESI-acuity, race and insurance payor, PIT vs. traditional was not a predictor of CT ordering (OR 1.14, 95% CI 0.94-1.38).
Conclusions: For patients with abdominal pain, we found no significant differences in rates of CT ordering or CT yield for patients seen in a PIT vs. traditional models, suggesting the increased efficiencies offered by PIT models do not come at the cost of increased or decreased imaging utilization.
Keywords: Abdominal CT; Abdominal pain; Physician; Split-flow; Triage; Utilization.
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