Study objective: To assess the clinical usefulness of blood cultures (BCs) in the management of patients hospitalized with community-acquired pneumonia (CAP).
Design: A prospective, observational study to investigate the contribution of BCs to the management and outcomes of adult patients presenting with CAP. Setting: Nineteen Canadian hospitals.
Patients: Adults admitted to the hospital with CAP between January 1, 1998, and July 31, 1998. Interventions: The courses of therapy in patients for whom BC results yielded organisms considered to be clinically significant were analyzed to determine whether the BCs had contributed to management or outcome.
Measurements and results: Forty-three of 760 patients had significantly positive BC results. Patients with CAP who had BCs performed had a 1.97% chance (15 of 760 patients) of having a change of therapy directed by BC results. Patients in whom BCs yielded positive results had a 34.8% chance (15 of 43 patients) of having a change in therapy determined by BC results, and had a 58.1% chance (25 of 43 patients) of having a course of therapy contraindicated by BC results. Severity of illness, as measured by the pneumonia severity index, correlated poorly with the yield of BCs. BC results were positive in 8.0% of patients in risk classes I and II, 6.2% of patients in risk class III, 4.6% of patients in risk class IV, and 5.2% of patients in risk class V.
Conclusion: BCs have limited usefulness in the routine management of patients admitted to the hospital with uncomplicated CAP.