Objectives: To quantify and then reduce the number of unnecessary chest X-rays (CXR) being performed on children presenting with asthma.
Methods: A retrospective review of case notes of all children, aged 1–15 years, who presented with asthma and had a CXR performed. The setting was two General Hospitals that see all children presenting to an emergency department in the region. The period of review was before and after the development and implementation of a simple guide for staff, with an education programme, outlining when CXR were deemed unnecessary (known asthmatic, primary diagnosis asthma, improving with treatment, pneumothorax not suspected, and not in Intensive Care Unit).
Results: In the 12 months prior to the education programme, 466 children presented with asthma: 260 had a CXR, of which 211 (81.1%) were unnecessary. During the 6 month period following implementation of the programme 197 presented with asthma: 72 had a CXR, of which 56 (78%) were deemed unnecessary. However the percentage of all children presenting with asthma who had an unnecessary CXR fell from 45.3% (211/466) to 28.4% (56/197): P = 0.00005. There was also a decrease in the admission rate from 46% before to 31% after the period of education.
Conclusion: This study determined that an unacceptably high rate of unnecessary CXR was being ordered in children presenting to hospital with asthma. It also showed how a clinically and statistically significant reduction in the overall number of CXR could be achieved, through a simple and easy to implement educational programme. Further measures are needed in addition to ongoing education in order to improve on this achievement.