Emergency physicians' attitudes toward and use of clinical decision rules for radiography

Acad Emerg Med. 1998 Feb;5(2):134-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.1998.tb02598.x.


Objectives: 1) To assess Canadian emergency physicians' (EPs') use of and attitudes toward 2 radiographic clinical decision rules that have recently been developed and to identify physician characteristics associated with decision rule use; 2) to determine the use of CT head and cervical spine radiography by EPs and their beliefs about the appropriateness of expert recommendations supporting the routine use of these radiographic procedures; and 3) to determine the potential acceptance of clinical decision rules for CT scan in patients with minor head injury and cervical spine radiography in trauma patients.

Methods: A cross-sectional anonymous mail survey of a random sample of 300 members of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians using Dillman's Total Design Method for mail surveys.

Results: Of 288 eligible physicians, 232 (81%) responded. More than 95% of the respondents stated they currently used the Ottawa Ankle Rules and were willing to consider using the newly developed Ottawa Knee Rule. Physician characteristics related to frequent use of the Ottawa Ankle Rules were younger age, fewer years since graduating from medical school, part time or resident employment status, working in a hospital without a CT scanner, and believing that decision rules are not oversimplified cookbook medicine or too rigid to apply. Eighty-five percent did not agree that all patients with minor head injuries should receive a CT head scan and only 3.5% stated they always refer such patients for CT scan. Similarly, 78.5% of the respondents did not agree that all trauma patients should receive cervical spine radiography and only 13.2% said they always refer such patients for cervical spine radiography. Ninety-seven and 98% stated they would be willing to consider using well-validated decision rules for CT scan of the head and cervical spine radiography, respectively. Fifty-two percent and 67% of the respondents required the proposed CT and C-spine to be 100% sensitive for identifying serious injuries, respectively.

Conclusions: Canadian EPs are generally supportive of clinical decision rules and, in particular, have very positive attitudes toward the Ottawa Ankle and Knee Rules. Furthermore, EPs disagree with recommendations for routine use of CT head and cervical spine radiography and strongly support the development of well-validated decision rules for the use of CT head and cervical spine radiography. Most EPs expected the latter rules to be 100% sensitive for acute clinically significant lesions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Canada
  • Craniocerebral Trauma / diagnostic imaging
  • Decision Making
  • Emergency Medicine*
  • Female
  • Guideline Adherence*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Radiography / standards*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / standards