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Pediatrics. 2015 Nov;136(5):e1212-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-1671.

Variation in Utilization of Computed Tomography Imaging at Tertiary Pediatric Hospitals.

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The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio.
The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio



Recent efforts have focused on reducing computed tomography (CT) imaging in children. Although published reports show variability in CT scanning for specific indications, an assessment of the effects of institutional factors (case-mix or hospital volume) on the rate of CT scanning for any indication is necessary to better understand variability across pediatric hospitals.


Data from 2009 to 2013 on inpatient, observation, and emergency department (ED) encounters were extracted from the Pediatric Health Information System. Chronological trends and institutional variability in CT scan rates were examined by using negative binomial regression models. Case-mix was adjusted by using All Patient Refined Diagnosis Related Groups and severity level.


Thirty hospitals were included. There were 12 531 184 patient encounters and 701 644 CT scans resulting in a mean of 56 scans per 1000 encounters (range: 26-108). The most common scan types were head (60.1%) and abdomen/pelvis (19.9%). There was an inverse relationship between the CT scan rate and hospital volume (P = .002) and a direct relationship between the CT scan rates for inpatient/observation and ED encounters (P < .001). The rate of CT imaging decreased from 69.2 to 49.6 scans per 1000 encounters during the study period (P < .001).


The overall use of CT imaging is decreasing, and significant variability remains in CT use across tertiary pediatric hospitals. Hospital volume and institutional-level practices account for a significant portion of the variability. This finding suggests an opportunity for standardization through multi-institutional quality improvement projects to reduce CT imaging.

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