Current guidelines for the control of nosocomial transmission of tuberculosis (TB) recommend respiratory isolation for all patients with suspected TB. Application of these guidelines has resulted in many patients without TB being isolated on admission to the hospital, significantly increasing hospital costs. This study was conducted to prospectively validate a clinical decision rule to predict the need for respiratory isolation in inpatients with suspected TB.
A cohort of 516 individuals, who presented to 2 New York City hospitals between January 16, 2001, and September 29, 2002, and who were isolated on admission for clinically suspected TB, were enrolled in the study. Face-to-face interviews were conducted to determine the presence of clinical variables associated with TB in the prediction model, including TB risk factors, clinical symptoms, and findings from physical examination and chest radiography.
Of the 516 patients, 19 were found to have TB (prevalence, 3.7%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.2%-5.7%). The prediction rule had a sensitivity of 95% (95% CI, 74%-100%) and a specificity of 35% (95% CI, 31%-40%). Using a prevalence of TB of 3.7%, the positive predictive value was 9.6% and the negative predictive value was 99.7%.
Among inpatients with suspected active pulmonary TB who are isolated on admission to the hospital, a prediction rule based on clinical and chest radiographic findings accurately identified patients at low risk for TB. Approximately one third of the unnecessary episodes of respiratory isolation could have been avoided had the prediction rule been applied. Future studies should assess the feasibility of implementing the rule in clinical practice.