Diagnostic Stewardship of Endotracheal Aspirate Cultures in a PICU

Pediatrics. 2021 May;147(5):e20201634. doi: 10.1542/peds.2020-1634. Epub 2021 Apr 7.


Background: Clinicians commonly obtain endotracheal aspirate cultures (EACs) in the evaluation of suspected ventilator-associated infections. However, bacterial growth in EACs does not distinguish bacterial colonization from infection and may lead to overtreatment with antibiotics. We describe the development and impact of a clinical decision support algorithm to standardize the use of EACs from ventilated PICU patients.

Methods: We monitored EAC use using a statistical process control chart. We compared the rate of EACs using Poisson regression and a quasi-experimental interrupted time series model and assessed clinical outcomes 1 year before and after introduction of the algorithm.

Results: In the preintervention year, there were 557 EACs over 5092 ventilator days; after introduction of the algorithm, there were 234 EACs over 3654 ventilator days (an incident rate of 10.9 vs 6.5 per 100 ventilator days). There was a 41% decrease in the monthly rate of EACs (incidence rate ratio [IRR]: 0.59; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.51-0.67; P < .001). The interrupted time series model revealed a preexisting 2% decline in the monthly culture rate (IRR: 0.98; 95% CI 0.97-1.0; P = .01), immediate 44% drop (IRR: 0.56; 95% CI 0.45-0.70; P = .02), and stable rate in the postintervention year (IRR: 1.03; 95% CI 0.99-1.07; P = .09). In-hospital mortality, hospital length of stay, 7-day readmissions, and All Patients Refined Diagnosis Related Group severity and mortality scores were stable. The estimated direct cost savings was $26 000 per year.

Conclusions: A clinical decision support algorithm standardizing EAC obtainment from ventilated PICU patients was associated with a sustained decline in the rate of EACs, without changes in mortality, readmissions, or length of stay.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Algorithms*
  • Body Fluids / microbiology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Decision-Making*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric
  • Quality Improvement
  • Respiration, Artificial*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Trachea
  • Young Adult