Promising results for rapid viral diagnosis tests in emergency rooms
5 October 2009
Rapid viral diagnosis tests for respiratory diseases in children who
arrive in emergency departments have the potential to reduce pressures
on health systems by enabling doctors to reach a quicker diagnosis,
according to Cochrane Researchers. However, they say larger trials are
needed to confirm this finding.
“The existing evidence is not strong enough to prove that these tests
help to reduce pressure on health systems, but it certainly does look
promising,” said lead researcher, Quynh Doan of the British Columbia
Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, Canada.
Children who are admitted to emergency departments with cold and flu
symptoms and fever undergo various diagnostic tests and are often
prescribed antibiotics as a precautionary measure, even though viruses,
which are often the cause, do not respond to antibiotics.
The burden on health systems is huge, not only financially, but also
in terms of the time and staff required to reach a diagnosis. Rapid
viral diagnosis methods could help deliver fast, accurate diagnoses, and
enable a much more appropriate use of antibiotics.
The study included data from four trials, which together included
1,588 children. There was some evidence that rapid viral testing reduced
use of other blood or urine tests, chest X-rays and antibiotics, but the
results were not significant. However, the researchers suggest that
further, sufficiently large studies could reveal the true impact of
“A large controlled trial would help us to understand whether rapid
viral testing can be of any great benefit,” says Doan. “For example, we
saw a weak trend towards reduced antibiotic prescriptions, but results
were contradictory between the different trials. It would also be
interesting to see some evaluation of cost effectiveness for these more
1. Doan Q, Enarson P, Kissoon N, Klassen TP, Johnson DW. Rapid viral
diagnosis for acute febrile respiratory illness in children in the
Emergency Department. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
2009, Issue 4.Art.No.: CD006452. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006452.pub2.
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