Objective: To determine the diagnostic efficacy (DE) and therapeutic efficacy (TE) of daily routine chest radiographs (CXRs), and to establish the impact of abandoning this CXR from daily practice on total CXR volume, ICU length of stay (LOS), readmission rate, and ICU mortality.
Design: Prospective controlled study in two parts. The first part comprised a 1-year period during which attending physicians were blinded for findings on daily routine CXRs and were only informed if something deemed important was seen by the radiologist (predefined major abnormalities) who reviewed all CXRs as usual. The second part comprised a half-year period during which daily routine CXRs were replaced by clinically indicated CXR.
Setting: Mixed medical-surgical ICU of a teaching hospital.
Results: Data on 1,780 daily routine CXRs in 559 hospital admissions were collected. DE of daily routine CXRs was 4.4%. The most frequent unexpected major abnormalities were new or progressive infiltrates (1.8%) and oropharyngeal tube malposition (0.7%). TE of daily routine CXRs was 1.9%. The most frequent intervention was oropharyngeal tube adjustment (0.6%). No relation was found for DE or TE and hospital admission type or intubation and mechanical ventilation. In the second study part, 433 CXRs were obtained in 274 admissions. Abandoning daily routine CXRs did not affect clinically indicated CXRs orders, or ICU LOS, readmission rate, and mortality. A total CXR volume reduction of 35% (which equaled $9,900 per bed per year [US dollars]) was observed after abandoning daily routine CXRs.
Conclusion: Diagnostic and therapeutic value of the daily routine CXR is low. Daily routine CXRs can be safely abandoned in the ICU.