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ACADEMIC EMERGENCY MEDICINE 2011; 18:1380–1385 © 2011 by the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine

Abstract

Objectives:  The objective was to assess the relationship between emergency department (ED) crowding and timeliness of antibiotic administration to neonates presenting with fever in a pediatric ED.

Methods:  This was a retrospective cohort study of febrile neonates (aged 0–30 days) evaluated for serious bacterial infections (SBIs) in a pediatric ED from January 2006 to January 2008. General linear models were used to evaluate the association of five measures of ED crowding with timeliness of antibiotic administration, controlling for patient characteristics. A secondary analysis was conducted to determine which part of the ED visit for this population was most affected by crowding.

Results:  A total of 190 patients met inclusion criteria. Mean time to first antibiotic was 181.7 minutes (range = 18–397 minutes). At the time of case presentation, the number of patients waiting in the waiting area, total number of hours spent in the ED by current ED patients, number of ED patients awaiting admission, and hourly boarding time were all positively associated with longer times to antibiotic. The time from patient arrival to room placement exhibited the strongest association with measures of crowding.

Conclusions:  Emergency department crowding is associated with delays in antibiotic administration to the febrile neonate despite rapid recognition of this patient population as a high-risk group. Each component of ED crowding, in terms of input, throughput, and output factors, was associated with delays. Further work is required to develop processes that foster a more rapid treatment protocol for these high-risk patients, regardless of ED crowding pressures.