S.D.H. Malnick, G. Duek, N. Beilinson, V. Neogolani, A. Basevitz, M. Somin, J. Cohen, M. Katz and A. Schattner
Background: In many hospitals a chest X-ray is performed routinely at each patient’s admission. There are scant data regarding its usefulness in contemporary patient populations, which are characterized by patients’ increasing age, severity of illness, and different comorbidities.
Methods: We studied consecutive patients admitted during a 2 month period to a single department of medicine, where hospital policy mandates performing a CXR on admission or soon after. Two senior clinicians who were not involved in the care of these patients assessed the discharge summaries for a clinical indication to perform CXR on admission, as well as its contribution to patient management (major positive, major negative, minor positive, or no contribution). Logistic regression analysis was performed with the SPSS 12 software program.
Results: The study population comprised 675 patients whose mean age was 64.5 ± 17.2 years. Their presenting complaints included chest pain (18%), dyspnea (12%), weakness (10.5%), fever (9%), abdominal pain (8%) and neurologic complaints (7.5%). Physical examination of the chest was normal in 585 (87%) of the cases and abnormal in 87 (13%). Examination of the heart was normal in 518 (77%) and abnormal in 129 (19%). In 19.6% (130 cases) CXR was not performed. Of the 545 CXRs done, 260 (48%) were normal. In only 128 (23.5%) did the admission CXR make a major positive contribution to diagnosis or treatment. In 61 (11.2%) it provided a minor positive contribution and in 153 (28.1%) a major negative contribution. In 184 patients (33.8%) the CXR did not affect either diagnosis or management. It made a major positive contribution to management in patients for whom there was an indication for performing the X-ray (odds ratio 10.3, P < 0.0005) and in those with a relevant finding on physical examination (OR 1.63, P = 0.110). For a major negative contribution of the CXR to management (i.e., ruling out clinically important possibilities), the clinical indication was also very important (OR 72.9, P < 0.005). When patients with either a clinical indication for performing a CXR or an abnormal chest examination were excluded, 329 patients remained (60% of the 545 who had a CXR) in only 12 of them (3.6%) did the routine admission CXR contribute to patient management.
Conclusions: A routine admission CXR has a significant impact on patient management only in those patients in whom there are relevant findings on physical examination or a clear clinical indication for performing the test. There is no need to routinely order CXR on admission to hospital.
 CXR = chest X-ray
 OR = odds ratio