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Reducing Unnecessary Imaging for Patients With Constipation in the Pediatric Emergency Department. Pediatrics 2017 Jul;140(1)



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-85021750626   9 Citations


OBJECTIVES: Constipation is a common diagnosis in the pediatric emergency department (ED). Children diagnosed with constipation may undergo an abdominal radiograph (AXR) as part of their diagnostic workup despite studies that suggest that an AXR in a patient suspected of being constipated is unnecessary and potentially misleading. We aimed to decrease the percentage of low-acuity patients aged between 6 months and 18 years diagnosed with constipation who undergo an AXR in our pediatric ED from 60% to 20% over 12 months.

METHODS: We conducted an interventional improvement project at a large, urban pediatric ED by using the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's Model for Improvement. The primary outcome was the proportion of patients ultimately diagnosed with constipation who had an AXR during their ED visit. Analysis was performed by using rational subgrouping and stratification on statistical process control (SPC) charts.

RESULTS: Process analysis was performed by using a cause-and-effect diagram. Four plan-do-study-act cycles were completed over 9 months. Interventions included holding Grand Rounds on constipation, sharing best practices, metrics reporting, and academic detailing. Rational subgrouping and stratification on SPC charts were used to target the interventions to different ED provider groups. Over 12 months, we observed a significant and sustained decrease from a mean rate of 62% to a mean rate of 24% in the utilization of AXRs in the ED for patients with constipation.

CONCLUSIONS: The use of rational subgrouping and stratification on SPC charts to study different ED provider groups resulted in a substantial and sustained reduction in the rate of AXRs for constipation.

Author List

Ferguson CC, Gray MP, Diaz M, Boyd KP


Kevin P. Boyd DO Associate Professor in the Radiology department at Medical College of Wisconsin
Catherine Ferguson MD Director, Associate Professor in the Pediatrics department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Child, Preschool
Emergency Service, Hospital
Radiography, Abdominal