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Chest. 2007 Jun;131(6):1865-9. Epub 2007 Mar 30.

Misdiagnosis of community-acquired pneumonia and inappropriate utilization of antibiotics: side effects of the 4-h antibiotic administration rule.

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Department of Medicine, St. John Hospital and Medical Center, 19251 Mack Ave, Suite 340, Grosse Pointe Woods, MI 48236, USA.



The 2003 Infectious Diseases Society of America guidelines for community-acquired pneumonia (CAP) recommend the initiation of antibiotic therapy within 4 h of hospitalization. This quality indicator has been linked to the incentive compensation of third-party payers to hospitals. We evaluated the impact of this recommendation on the diagnosis of CAP and the utilization of antibiotics.


All patients with a hospital admission diagnosis of CAP before publication of the guidelines (January to June 2003) and after publication of the guidelines (January-June 2005) were included. We collected data on clinical signs and symptoms on presentation, chest radiograph findings, blood cultures prior to therapy with antibiotics, time to antibiotic administration, pneumonia severity index (PSI) score, confusion, urea, respiratory rate, BP, and age >or= 65 years (CURB-65), and mortality.


A total of 518 patients were included in the study. More patients in 2005 had a hospital admission diagnosis of CAP without radiographic abnormalities compared to 2003 (2005, 91 patients [28.5%]; 2003, 41 patients [20.6%]; p = 0.04), and more patients received antibiotics within 4 h of triage (2005, 210 patients [65.8%]; 2003, 107 patients [53.8%]; p = 0.007). Blood cultures prior to antibiotic administration increased (2005, 220 patients [69.6%]; 2003, 93 patients [46.7%]; p < 0.001). However, the final diagnosis of CAP dropped to 58.9% in 2005 from 75.9% in 2003 (p < 0.001). The mean (+/- SD) antibiotic utilization per patient increased to 1.66 +/- 0.54 in 2005 compared to 1.39 +/- 0.58 in 2003 (p < 0.001). There were no significant differences in PSI or CURB-65 scores, or mortality.


Linking antibiotic administration within 4 h of hospital admission (as a quality indicator) to financial compensation may result in an inaccurate diagnosis of CAP, inappropriate utilization of antibiotics, and thus less than optimal care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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