Young Women Often Can't Be Reached After STI Testing


BALTIMORE β€” Empiric treatment for sexually transmitted infections among adolescent girls presenting to a pediatric emergency department is high, but many patients are unreachable for follow-up and some remain unaware that they are infected, according to a 3-month baseline study.

In all, 120 young women aged 14–21 years who were seen at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital pediatric emergency department (PED) tested positive for Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, or Trichomonas vaginalis between July 1 and Sept. 23, 2008, reported Dr. Jennifer Reed, an attending physician in the division of emergency medicine.

More than two-thirds of adolescents (69%) who tested positive for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) were treated empirically in the PED. The researchers were able to contact almost half of STI-positive patients (46%) within 7 days and were able to contact only 60% within 30 days, according to data presented as a poster at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies.

β€œThe most prevalent reasons for the unreachable patients included phones being disconnected, no answer, and full voice mailboxes,” Dr. Reed said in an interview.

However, she noted that these data have not been analyzed yet.

The researchers tracked adolescent patients who tested positive for any STI. The usual clinical protocol involved contacting only those patients who tested positive for an STI but who were not treated empirically in the PED.

During the study period, a nurse practitioner attempted to contact all patients who tested positive for an STI, as soon as test results were available, regardless of documentation of PED treatment. Patients contacted at home were notified of their results and offered treatment if needed.

After three unsuccessful phone attempts to contact the patient, a registered letter was sent to the patient with the STI test results and a request to return to the PED. Those without treatment and no telephone contact or follow-up in the PED were classified as lost to follow-up.

The researchers recorded the date of contact and calculated the proportion of patients successfully contacted, the mean and median days to treatment/notification, and the proportions notified within 7 days and within 30 days.

For the 36 patients untreated at the initial PED visit but who tested positive and were successfully contacted, the median number of days to treatment was 8. In all, 9% of girls were lost to follow-up.

A total of 33 (28%) patients were empirically treated for STIs but remained unaware of their infections, putting their partners at risk and themselves at risk for reinfection from positive untreated partners.

A total of 11 (9%) patients were untreated and unaware of their infections, putting themselves at risk for complications from STIs, as well as for spreading infection.

This study is phase I of a quality improvement project designed to improve the STI reporting system in the PED.

The study was supported by a grant from the Cincinnati Hospital Research Foundation Outcomes award, as well as a K23 award from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.

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