Patient Care

Variation in the Treatment of Henoch-Schönlein Purpura


Reviewed by Pediatric Editor Mark Shen, MD, medical director of hospital medicine at Dell Children’s Medical Center, Austin, Texas.

Clinical question: What is the degree of variation in the inpatient management of Henoch-Schönlein purpura (HSP)?

Background: HSP is the most common pediatric vasculitis, but there are no consensus recommendations or guidelines for treatment. The amount of variation in the pharmacologic management of this disease is unknown.

Study design: Retrospective database analysis.

Setting: Thirty-six children’s hospitals affiliated with the Child Health Corporation of America.

Synopsis: The Pediatric Health Information (PHIS) database was sampled for children younger than 18 years of age with an ICD-9-CM code of HSP and discharge from a hospital that submitted appropriate data from 2000 to 2007. Only index admissions were included, and children with coexisting rheumatic conditions were excluded, for a total of 1,988 subjects.

Logistic regression analysis was used to examine the effects of patient-level standardization on hospital-level rates of therapy and the degree to which variation across hospitals occurred beyond what would be expected after standardization.

Hospital-level variation in medication use was significant (P<0.001) for corticosteroids, opiates, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), even after adjustment for severity and age at presentation.

Although variation in management is not surprising, the significant degree to which this occurred at the hospital level suggests that local institutional culture plays a dominant role in decision-making. The use of the PHIS database allows for analysis of a large population that would be otherwise difficult to study. However, significant numbers of HSP patients do not require hospitalization, and the study results might substantially over- or underestimate practice patterns. Collaborative efforts to better define optimal management of HSP are needed.

Bottom line: A significant degree of hospital-level variation exists in the inpatient management of HSP.

Citation: Weiss PF, Klink AJ, Hexem K, et al. Variation in inpatient therapy and diagnostic evaluation of children with henoch schönlein purpura. J Pediatr. 2009;155(6):812-818.e1.

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