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Pediatr Emerg Care. 2006 Jun;22(6):412-4.

Decrease in emergency department length of stay as a result of triage pulse oximetry.

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Children's Hospital Los Angeles and USC Keck School of Medicine, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA.



Many emergency departments do not perform pulse oximetry in triage, in spite of its potential for altering management decisions. We attempted to quantify the decrease in patient throughput time in a pediatric emergency department following the introduction of triage pulse oximetry.


One hundred fifty-nine bronchiolitis patients from 2004 served as the preintervention group, and were evaluated against 89 severity-matched postintervention bronchiolitis patients from 2005. Their mean lengths of ED stay were compared by a t test.


The preintervention group had a mean length of stay of 4 hours and 59 minutes, and the postintervention group had a mean length of stay of 4 hours and 9 minutes, which was significantly different (P = 0.03). The sensitivity of respiratory distress on the triage exam for predicting hypoxia was fair (74%).


Institution of triage pulse oximetry significantly decreases ED throughput times. Clinical exam alone is not a replacement for measurement of oxygen saturation.

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