Temporal Trends in Utilization of Transthoracic Echocardiography for Common Outpatient Pediatric Cardiology Diagnoses over the Past 15 Years

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Abstract

Background:

No data exist regarding the temporal trends in utilization of transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) in an outpatient pediatric cardiology setting. This study evaluates the trends in utilization of TTE for common diagnoses known to have low diagnostic yield and the factors influencing these trends.

Methods:

Patients evaluated at our pediatric cardiology clinics from January 2000 to December 2014 and discharged with final diagnoses of innocent murmur, noncardiac chest pain, benign syncope, and palpitations were included. Variables collected retrospectively included patient age, sex, insurance type, distance from clinic, and ordering physician's years of experience since fellowship.

Results:

Of the 74,881 patients seen by 35 physicians, 36,053 (48.1%) had a TTE. The TTE rates increased from the beginning of 2000 to the end of 2004 (5.2% per year; P < .001) and then steadily declined until the end of 2014 (1.6% per year; P < .001). Utilization for noncardiac chest pain remained the highest, and use in infants increased significantly during the study period (P < .001). After adjusting for all other factors, the following variables were associated with higher TTE utilization: younger age, males, Medicaid insurance, increased distance from clinic, and being seen by less experienced physicians. Temporal trends persisted after adjusting for all these factors.

Conclusions:

After an initial surge in TTE utilization from 2000 to 2004, there was a steady decline. This study identifies some important factors influencing these trends. This information could help design quality interventions, but additional factors need to be explored since the trends persist despite adjusting for these factors.

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