Australasian College for Emergency Medicine
Recommendations from the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine on CT scans for head injury and renal colic, end-of-life care in emergency departments, cervical spine (neck) imaging and coagulation studies. ACEM is the not-for-profit organisation responsible for training emergency physicians and advancing professional standards in emergency medicine in Australia and New Zealand.
Avoid blood cultures in patients who are not systemically septic, have a clear source of infection and in whom a direct specimen for culture (e.g. urine, wound swab, sputum, cerebrospinal fluid, or joint aspirate) is possible.
Blood cultures taken in an emergency department do not add more information that would aid clinical management; they also represent a significant cost. The rate of false positives in blood cultures has been reported as approximately 50% and other, more direct, tests have been shown to have a markedly higher yield – i.e. a diagnostic procedure that often results in a definitive diagnosis.
Please refer to the joint ACEM/Royal Australian College of Pathologists Guideline on Pathology Testing in the Emergency Department for further guidance on appropriate pathology test requesting in emergency departments.
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- Shah SS, Dugan MH, Bell LM, Grundmeier RW, Florin TA, Hines EM, and Metlay JP. Blood cultures in the Emergency Department Evaluation of Childhood Pneumonia. Pediat Inf Dis J. 2011; 30(6): 475-9.
- Makam AN, Auerbach AD, Steinman MA. Blood culture use in the ED in patients hospitalised for community-acquired pneumonia. JAMA Intern Med. 2014; 174(5):803.
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A Choosing Wisely Working Group of 9 emergency physicians identified an initial list of 10 potential items. All ACEM members were able to provide feedback on these items and suggest other issues for consideration. This feedback informed Working Group refinement of the initial list into 8 recommendations. Evidence reviews were then completed for each recommendation. These evidence reviews, frequency of use in ED, risks/benefit to patient and cost were used as criteria for Working Group member voting in order to determine the final 6 recommendations. These recommendations have been endorsed by ACEM's Council of Advocacy, Practice and Partnerships.
Following identification of two common recommendations with the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists, it was agreed by both Colleges to jointly present these items.
Avoid requesting computed tomography (CT) imaging of kidneys, ureters and bladder (KUB) in otherwise healthy emergency department patients, age <50 years, with a known history of kidney stones, presenting with symptoms and signs consistent with uncomplicated renal colic.
Avoid coagulation studies in emergency department patients unless there is a clearly defined specific clinical indication, such as for monitoring of anticoagulants, in patients with suspected severe liver disease, coagulopathy, or in the assessment of snakebite envenomation*.
- 3 Avoid blood cultures in patients who are not systemically septic, have a clear source of infection and in whom a direct specimen for culture (e.g. urine, wound swab, sputum, cerebrospinal fluid, or joint aspirate) is possible.
- 4 For emergency department patients approaching end-of-life, ensure clinicians, patients and families have a common understanding of the goals of care.
- 5 Don’t request imaging of the cervical spine in trauma patients, unless indicated by a validated clinical decision rule.
- 6 Don’t request computed tomography (CT) head scans in patients with a head injury, unless indicated by a validated clinical decision rule.