Objective: To implement and evaluate an algorithm designed to assist in the consistent placement of patients with suspected pulmonary tuberculosis into negative-pressure isolation rooms (NPIRs).
Design: A standard algorithm was designed for the appropriate room placement of patients with suspected pulmonary tuberculosis using clinical, radiographic, and laboratory criteria and reported risk factors. A case-patient was defined as an inpatient who had at least one Mycobacterium tuberculosis culture-positive respiratory specimen from January 1, 1993, through December 31, 1994. Demographic, clinical, laboratory, case contact, and isolation and room placement data were collected prospectively on all case-patients.
Setting: A 900-bed university teaching and referral center.
Results: During 1993 and 1994, 69 patients were evaluated for possible pulmonary tuberculosis, and 31 case-patients were identified. Of the 31 case-patients, 26 (84%) were placed on respiratory isolation in NPIRs, including 19 (61%) who were isolated within 24 hours of admission (1993, 14 of 20 [70%]; 1994, 5 of 11 [45%]). Seven case-patients (23%) were isolated in NPIRs following delays that ranged from 2 to 31 days (median, 9 days), and five case-patients (16%) never were isolated during admissions of from 3 to 28 days (median, 4 days). These 12 case-patients contributed a total of 136 patient-exposure days during their hospitalizations. Misclassification of patient risk status by user error delayed isolation of five (42%) of the 12 improperly isolated case-patients.
Conclusions: The use of an algorithm incorporating radiographic, laboratory, and clinical criteria and reported risk factors may assist in the rapid isolation of patients with suspected pulmonary tuberculosis.