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Oxygen saturation is not clinically useful in the exclusion of bacterial pneumonia in febrile infants
  1. Leslie V Simon1,
  2. Keri L Carstairs1,
  3. Jacqueline M Reardon1,
  4. Sherri L Rudinsky1,
  5. Robert H Riffenburgh2,
  6. David A Tanen1
  1. 1Department of Emergency Medicine, Naval Medical Center, San Diego, CA, USA
  2. 2Clinical Investigations Department, Naval Medical Center, San Diego, CA, USA
  1. Correspondence to David A Tanen, Naval Medical Center San Diego, 34800 Bob Wilson Drive, San Diego, CA 92134, USA; David.tanen{at}


Background Acute respiratory infection remains a common presentation to Emergency Departments. Oxygen saturations (Sao2) may be useful in determining which febrile infants require chest x-rays (CXR) in investigation for bacterial pneumonia (PNA). This study aimed to determine whether Sao2 is clinically useful in excluding bacterial PNA in febrile infants <24 months.

Methods A febrile infant registry was instituted at a tertiary care military hospital (55 000 annual patients, 27% children) from December 2002–December 2003. Eligible patients consisted of infants <3 months with temperature ≥38°C or 3–24 months with temperature ≥39°C. Bacterial PNA was defined in this cohort by a CXR revealing a ‘lobar infiltrate’ by a board-certified radiologist. Descriptive statistics are presented on groups who received CXR versus groups who did not, and on infants who had bacterial PNA versus those who did not. Student t tests were used to compare maximum temperature (Tmax), RR, and Sao2. Logistic regression for PNA was performed using age, sex, Tmax, RR, HR and Sao2. A Receiver Operator Characteristic (ROC) curve was created to show Sao2 cut-off points as related to sensitivity and specificity.

Results 985 patients (55% boys; median age: 12 months) met entry criteria. 790 underwent CXR and 82 were diagnosed with bacterial PNA. Sao2 was lower in infants with bacterial PNA (96.6%±2.5% vs 97.7%±1.8%, p<0.001). Sao2 was also predictive of bacterial PNA by logistic regression (p=0.017) but the ROC curve yielded a poor sensitivity/specificity profile (area under curve (AUC) of 0.6786).

Conclusions In febrile infants, Sao2 was not found to be clinically useful for excluding bacterial PNA.

  • Chest radiograph
  • febrile
  • infant, oxygen saturation
  • pneumonia

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  • Presented as an abstract at the Society of Academic Emergency Meeting in Chicago, Il in May of 2007.

  • Funding The Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Navy Department, Washington, DC, Clinical Investigations Program, sponsored this report #S-05-75 as required by NSHBETHINST 6000.41B.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the IRB at Naval Medical Center San Diego.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.