Detection of electroyte abnirmalities in children presenting to the emergency department: A Multicenter, prospective analysis

Steven G. Rothrock, Steven M. Green, C. L. McArthur, Kevin Delduca, Steven Rudis, Jay L. Falk, Mary Rutherford, Dee Hodge, Elizabeth Lynch, Bernard Dannenberg

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14 Scopus citations


Objective: To prospectively derive high-yield criteria for the detection of clinically significant electrolyte abnormalities (CSEAs) in children presenting to the ED. Methods: A prospective, miiltieenter, observational study was performed at the EDs of 2 urban teaching hospitals, a university medical center, and a children's hospital with a combined census of 275,000 patient visits year (100,000 visits for children 13 years old). All children 13 years old who had electrolyte panels obtained were eligible for analysis. A data form containing potential predictor variables for a CSEA was completed by the clinician prior to receipt of electrolyte results. A CSEA was any abnormal electrolyte value that 1) stimulated constructive assessment of the patient's condition (monitoring, réévaluation of nonspurious laboratory values, or admission), 2) led to further diagnostic studies, 3) led to a new diagnosis, or 4) affected therapy. 2 recursive partitioning was used to derive a decision rule for ordering electrolytes. Results: Of 715 eligible patient visits, 488 (68%) electrolyte panels contained a laboratory abnormality, with 182 (25%) CSEAs. A decision rule requiring 1 of 6 clinical criteria was 100% sensitive (95% CI 98-100%) and 24% specific (95% CI 21-28%) in detecting CSEAs wilh positive and negative predictive values of 31% (95% CI 28-34%) and 100% (95% CI 97-100%), respectively. If these criteria had been used to screen patients for whom electrolyte panels were ordered, 128 patients (18%) would not have had electrolyte panels obtained and no CSEAs would have been missed. Conclusion: A set of clinical criteria was derived that may be useful for limiting electrolyte panels ordering in children. This criterion set requires prospective validation in a separate patient population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1025-1031
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1997


  • Children
  • Decision rule
  • Electrolytes
  • Pediatrics
  • Test ordering


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