A Quality Improvement Initiative to Reduce Unneeded Screening Chest Radiographs in a Pediatric Cardiovascular ICU

Respir Care. 2023 Mar;68(3):392-399. doi: 10.4187/respcare.10375. Epub 2022 Oct 3.


Background: Adult critical care and radiographical societies have recommended changing practice from routine screening radiographs to on-demand chest radiographs (CXRs) for stable mechanically ventilated adult patients. There are no similar recommendations for patients in the pediatric ICU. Reducing the frequency with which unneeded CXRs are obtained can decrease radiation exposure and reduce waste, a substantial contributor to rising health care costs. We aimed to reduce unneeded daily screening CXRs in a pediatric cardiovascular ICU (CICU) by 20% in 6 months.

Methods: Criteria delineating which subjects in the CICU required daily screening CXRs were created and added to the daily rounding sheet for discussion for each subject. The primary goal of this study was to reduce CXRs in mechanically ventilated subjects as our previous practice had been to order daily CXRs. Respiratory therapists increased the frequency of evaluating and documenting endotracheal tube positioning prior to the initiation of this project. The outcome measure was the percentage subjects who received a daily screening CXR. The ratio of daily screening CXRs to the number of total CXRs ordered and unplanned extubations were followed as balancing measures.

Results: The number of subjects who received a daily screening CXR decreased from a baseline of 67% to 44% over the course of this project. There was no change in the ratio of daily screening CXRs to the number of total CXRs ordered or an increase in unplanned extubations. With an estimated cost of $268 per CXR, a reduction of 33% in routine screening CXRs saves an estimated $250,000 annually.

Conclusions: A decrease in daily screening CXRs can be sustained through the development of specific criteria to determine which patients need screening radiographs. This can be achieved without an increase in CXRs obtained at other times throughout the day or an increase in unplanned extubations. This eliminates unneeded health care expenditures, improves resource allocation for radiology technicians, and decreases disruptive interventions for patients.

Keywords: quality; radiographs; unplanned extubation; waste.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Critical Care
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units, Pediatric
  • Quality Improvement*
  • Radiography
  • Radiography, Thoracic*