Quality improvement, chest X-rays, intensive care unit



  1. Wu, Yu DNP, APRN (Advanced Heart Failure and Mechanical Circulatory Support Coordinator)


Background and purpose: Daily chest radiographs (CXRs) have long been a routine part of care. However, evidence as well as changing technology has promoted on-demand CXRs as beneficial to patient care. We found that a substantial number of routine daily CXRs were being ordered, with some of the orders staying active even after extubation.


Methods: Within a 19-bed adult medical ICU, we prospectively utilized 3 intervention phases from October 1, 2014, to February 28, 2018, to reduce routine CXRs. Nurse Practitioners (NP) initiated this quality improvement (QI) project, aiming to reduce the number of unnecessary of CXRs. Interventions included staff survey, routine CXR order removal, duplicate alerts, visual reminders, and an electronic clinical decision support tool. Monthly education of appropriate CXRs and bedside ultrasound were facilitated by NPs. The outcome measures of interest include: the number of CXRs per patient-day, the number of routine and on-demand CXRs, mortality rate, ICU length of stay, and ventilator days, radiation and cost.


Conclusions: Total number of CXRs per patient-day decreased by 36.1%. The proportion of routine CXRs decreased from 55.37% to 13.18%; on-demand orders increased, from 44.63% to 86.82%; and calculated radiation-exposure per census decreased, from 0.011 to 0.008 mSv. In addition, charges to patients for CXRs decreased by $7,750/month. ICU mortality and ventilator days per census remained stable.


Implications for practice: By an orchestrated process that included creating awareness and desire to change CXR ordering practices, we were able to decrease routine CXRs and increase on-demand utilization while maintaining counterbalance measures.