Effect of a split-flow physician in triage model on abdominal CT ordering rate and yield

Am J Emerg Med. 2021 Aug;46:160-164. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2020.05.119. Epub 2020 Jun 25.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Adult
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Radiography, Abdominal
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Triage*