, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 85-90,
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Date: 17 Jun 2008

Predicting observation unit treatment failures in patients with skin and soft tissue infections



Skin and soft tissue infections are a common admission diagnosis to emergency department (ED) observation units (OU). Little is known about which patients fail OU treatment.


This study evaluates clinical factors of skin or soft tissue infections associated with further inpatient treatment after OU treatment failure.


A structured retrospective cohort study of consecutive adults treated for abscess or cellulitis in our OU from April 2005 to February 2006 was performed. Records were identified using ICD-9 codes and were abstracted by two trained abstractors using a structured data collection form. Significant variables on univariate analysis P < 0.1 were entered into a multivariate logistic regression.


A total of 183 patient charts were reviewed. Four patients with a non-infectious diagnosis were excluded, leaving 179 patients. The median age was 41 (interquartile range: 20–74). Following observation treatment, 38% of patients required admission. The following variables were evaluated for association with failure to discharge home: intravenous drug use, gender, a positive community-acquired methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus culture, age, presence of medical insurance, drainage of an abscess in the ED, diabetes and a white blood cell count (WBC) greater than 15,000. Following multivariate analysis only female gender odds ratio (OR) 2.33 [95% confidence interval (CI): 1.06–5.15] and WBC greater than 15,000 OR 4.06 (95% CI: 1.53–10.74) were significantly associated with failure to discharge.


Among OU patients treated for skin and soft tissue infections, women were twice as likely to require hospitalization and patients with a WBC > 15,000 on presentation to the ED, regardless of gender, were 4 times more likely to require hospitalization.

The views expressed in this paper are those of the author(s) and not those of the editors, editorial board or publisher.
Presented at: The American College of Emergency Physicians Scientific Assembly, New Orleans, October 2006