Study Objective: To assess the adequacy of clinical information with reference to the Ottawa Ankle Rules (OAR) in X-ray referrals for adults with traumatic ankle injury in the ED of a South Australian tertiary hospital and report upon referring trends between emergency department clinicians.
Methods: A retrospective clinical audit of adult ankle X-ray referrals in the emergency department was conducted. Eligible referrals were screened for their adherence to the OAR, patient details, clinical history and referrer. A logistic regression was used to determine the influence of these factors on the likelihood of being referred for X-rays despite not meeting the OAR criteria. Sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative likelihood ratios and their associated confidence intervals were calculated to assess the diagnostic accuracy of the OAR for those referred.
Results: Out of the 262 eligible referrals, 163 were deemed to have met the criteria for the OAR. Physiotherapists showed the highest OAR compliance of 77.3% and were the most accurate in their use of the rules, with a sensitivity of 0.86. Medical officers, registrars and interns were 2.5 times more likely to still refer a patient for X-ray if they did not meet the OAR criteria, compared to physiotherapists as the baseline. Patient age, duration of injury etc. were not significantly associated with likelihood of referral (even when they did not meet OAR criteria). The overall sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative likelihood ratios of the OAR were 0.59 (95% CI [0.47-0.71]), 0.37 (95% CI [0.30-0.44]), 0.93 (95% CI [0.76-1.16]) and 1.10 (95% CI [0.82-1.48]) respectively.
Conclusion: The results of this audit demonstrated poor sensitivity and moderate compliance by referrers with the rule. Reasonable evidence exists for the implementation of individual and/or institutional-based change strategies to improve clinician compliance and accuracy with use of the OAR.