Variation in Proportion of Blood Cultures Obtained for Children With Skin and Soft Tissue Infections.

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DOI: 10.1542/hpeds.2019-0317


Objectives: To identify variation in the proportion of blood cultures obtained for pediatric skin and soft tissue infections (SSTIs) among children's hospitals.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective cohort study using the Pediatric Health Information System database, which we queried for emergency department (ED)-only and hospital encounters between 2012 and 2017 for children aged 2 months to 18 years with diagnosis codes for SSTI. The primary outcome was proportion of SSTI encounters during which blood cultures were obtained. Encounters with and without blood cultures were compared for length of stay, costs, and 30-day ED revisit and readmission rates, adjusted for patient factors and hospital clustering. We also identified encounters with bacteremia using billing codes for septicemia and bacteremia.

Results: We identified 239 954 ED-only and 49 291 hospital SSTI encounters among 38 hospitals. Median proportions of ED-only and hospital encounters with blood cultures were 3.2% (range: 1%- 11%) and 51.6% (range: 25%-81%), respectively. Adjusted ED-only encounters with versus without blood culture had higher costs ($1266 vs $460, P < .001), higher ED revisit rates (3.6% vs 2.9%, P < .001), and higher admission rates (2.0% vs 0.9%, P < .001). Hospital encounters with blood culture had longer length of stay (2.3 vs 2.0 days, P < .001), higher costs ($5254 vs $4425, P < .001), and higher readmission rates (0.8% vs 0.7%, P = .027). The overall proportion of encounters with bacteremia was 0.6% for ED-only encounters and 1.0% for hospital encounters.

Conclusions: Despite multiple studies in which low clinical value was demonstrated and current Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines arguing against the practice, blood cultures were obtained frequently for children hospitalized with SSTIs, with substantial variation across institutions. Few bacteremic encounters were identified.

Journal Title

Hosp Pediatr





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MeSH Keywords

Adolescent; Bacteremia; Blood Culture; Child; Child, Preschool; Emergency Service, Hospital; Hospitals, Pediatric; Humans; Infant; Retrospective Studies; Skin Diseases, Infectious; Soft Tissue Infections


Bacteremia; Blood Culture; Hospital Emergency Service; Pediatric Hospitals; Retrospective Studies; Skin Diseases, Infectious; Soft Tissue Infections

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