Objective: To describe differences in patients hospitalized with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) lower respiratory tract infection (LRI) at nine Canadian tertiary care hospitals. In addition, this study describes the variation in use of drug and other interventions.
Methods: Data on patients hospitalized with RSV LRI and their outcomes were prospectively collected. Demographic data were obtained on enrollment by center study nurses. Data recorded daily included clinical assessment, oxygen saturation determination, and interventions (bronchodilators, steroids, ribavirin, antibiotics, intensive care, and mechanical ventilation) received during the day. Patients were divided into those with underlying diseases including congenital heart disease, chronic lung disease, immunodeficiency, or multiple congenital anomalies and those who were previously healthy. Mean RSV-associated length of stay and the proportion of patients receiving each intervention in each group were determined by hospital.
Results: A total of 1516 patients were enrolled at nine hospitals during January 1 to June 30, 1993, and January 1 to April 30, 1994. Significant differences were observed among hospitals in the proportion of patients with underlying disease, postnatal age less than 6 weeks, hypoxia, and pulmonary infiltrate on chest radiograph. The mean length of stay varied among hospitals from 8.6 to 11.8 days and 4.6 to 6.7 days in compromised and previously healthy patients, respectively. Except for receipt of bronchodilators, compromised patients were significantly more likely to receive interventions than previously healthy patients. There was variation among hospitals in receipt of most interventions in compromised and previously healthy patients. This variation was statistically significant for previously healthy patients but not statistically significant in those with underlying disease, because the numbers of patients in the latter group were much smaller. The magnitude of the variation for each intervention, however, was not different between those with underlying disease compared with previously healthy patients.
Conclusion: Differences exist among tertiary pediatric hospitals in the nature of the patients admitted with RSV LRI. Variation occurred in the use of five interventions among the hospitals, regardless of whether the patient had underlying illness or was previously healthy. Given their current widespread use, high cost, and potential side effects, randomized clinical trials are needed to determine the efficacy of different drug treatments used to treat infants hospitalized with RSV.