Background: Blood cultures are essential diagnostic tools used to identify bloodstream infections and to guide antimicrobial therapy. However, collecting cultures without clear indications or that do not inform management can lead to false-positive results and unnecessary use of antibiotics. Blood culture practices vary significantly in critically ill children. Our objective was to create a consensus guideline focusing on when to safely avoid blood cultures in pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) patients. Methods: A panel of multidisciplinary experts, many participating in the Blood Culture Improvement Guidelines and Diagnostic Stewardship for Antibiotic Reduction in Critically Ill Children (Bright STAR) Collaborative, engaged in a 2-part modified Delphi process. Round 1 consisted of a preparatory literature summary and an electronic survey sent to subject matter experts (SMEs). In the survey, SMEs rated a series of recommendations about when to avoid blood cultures on a 5-point Likert scale, 1 being the lowest score and 5 being the highest score. Consensus was achieved for each recommendation if 75% of respondents chose a score of 4 or 5, and these were included in the final guideline. Any recommendations that did not meet these a priori criteria for consensus were set aside for discussion during the in-person expert panel review (round 2). An outside expert in consensus methodology facilitated round 2. After a review of the survey results and comments from round 1 and group discussion, the SMEs voted on these recommendations in real time. Voting was blinded. Participants included Bright STAR site leads, national content experts, and representatives from relevant national societies. Results: We received 29 completed surveys from 34 invited participants for an 85% response rate. Of the 27 round 1 recommendations, 18 met predetermined criteria for consensus. Round 2 included 26 in-person voting participants who (1) discussed and modified the 9 recommendations that had not met round 1 consensus, and (2) modified for clarity or condensed from multiple into single recommendations the 18 recommendations that had met the round 1 consensus. The final document contains 19 recommendations that provide guidance on how to safely improve blood culture use in PICU patients (Table 1). Also, 8 recommendations discussed did not reach consensus for inclusion. Conclusions: Using a modified Delphi process, we created consensus recommendations on when to avoid blood cultures and prevent overuse in critically ill children. These guidelines are a critical step in disseminating diagnostic stewardship and reducing unnecessary testing on a wider scale.
Funding: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, R18 HS025642-01, 9/2017 – 9/2020 (Aaron Milstone, PI)