Background: Blood cultures are routinely used to investigate suspected sepsis in the emergency department despite several studies showing their limited influence on patient management.
Objectives: To quantify the use and clinical relevance of blood cultures obtained in the emergency department.
Methods: A retrospective study of blood cultures taken in the emergency department between 1 January 2003 and 31 December 2004. Microbiology results and patients’ records were reviewed to determine the influence of positive cultures on subsequent patient management.
Results: 2213 blood cultures were taken in the emergency department over the study period. 132 (6%) yielded a positive result. Three positive cultures had incomplete information. Of the remaining 129 positive cultures, 30 (1.4% of all cultures) were “true positives” and 4 (0.18%) influenced subsequent patient management.
Conclusions: Blood cultures taken in our emergency department (Southern General Hospital, Glasgow, UK) rarely yield bacterial growth, and over 2 years only four cultures seemed to directly influence patient management. Better guidelines are required for targeted use of blood cultures in the emergency department.
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Competing interests: None.
JFG completed and wrote the original pilot study; NH undertook the data collection and analysis of the main study. PTM developed the original idea and wrote the paper along with JFG and NH. PTM is the guarantor.
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