The impact of procedural sedation on diagnostic errors in pediatric echocardiography

Kenan W.D. Stern, Kimberlee Gauvreau, Tal Geva, Oscar J. Benavidez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Infants and young children frequently have difficulty remaining still for an echocardiographic examination, potentially leading to poor study quality, increasing the likelihood of diagnostic errors. Sedation is believed to improve echocardiographic quality, but its effectiveness has not been demonstrated. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that sedation would improve study quality and reduce diagnostic errors.

METHODS: Outpatient echocardiograms from children aged ≤36 months obtained from January 2008 to June 2009 were examined. Variables related to image quality, report completeness, and sedation use were collected. Diagnostic errors were identified and categorized. Multivariate analysis identified the odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for risk factors for potentially preventable diagnostic errors and the impact of sedation on these errors.

RESULTS: Among 2,003 echocardiographic examinations, sedation was used in 498 (25%). The overall diagnostic error rate was 6.5%. Most errors (66%) were potentially preventable. Multivariate analysis identified the following risk factors for potentially preventable errors: precardiac procedure (OR, 2.19; 95% CI, 1.05-4.59; P = .04), moderate anatomic complexity (OR, 3.91; 95% CI, 2.25-6.81; P < .001), and high anatomic complexity (OR, 8.36; 95% CI, 3.57-19.6; P < .001). Sedation was independently associated with lower odds of potentially preventable diagnostic errors (OR, 0.47; 95% CI, 0.27-0.80; P = .006). Echocardiographic examinations with sedation had fewer image quality concerns (22% vs 60%) and fewer incomplete reports (3% vs 20%) (P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS: Most echocardiographic diagnostic errors among infants and young children are potentially preventable. Sedation is associated with a lower likelihood of these diagnostic errors, fewer imaging quality concerns, and fewer incomplete reports.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)949-955
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Society of Echocardiography
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Diagnostic errors
  • Echocardiography
  • Pediatric and congenital heart disease
  • Procedural sedation


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