by Becky Burger, MD
As we approach respiratory viral season, we wanted to share our emergency department guideline for performing viral testing via the Respiratory Viral Panel (RVP) test. The RVP is a nasal swab test that detects viruses including influenza, RSV, and several other viruses. The turnaround time for the RVP result is between one and three hours. We have found that these tests sometimes delay disposition and often don’t change management of the patient in the ED. Our quality improvement committee developed the guidance below to optimize RVP testing in the ED. Please note that we do not perform the new molecular rapid influenza test in the emergency departments at Children’s.
For ED patients being discharged home:
- RVP usually not indicated: Healthy patients with viral symptoms. This is because of the following reasons:
- Prolonged positivity of RVPs from prior illnesses (unrelated to current symptoms)
- Multiple positives
- False sense of security
- Management can usually be based on clinical grounds (e.g. treating influenza in high-flu season)
- RVP may be done on a case-by-case basis: Patients with underlying chronic medical condition, or patients in the age range 4-8 week old with fever etc. where a positive test may change management– in such instances, RVP is helpful only if we wait for result of the test for further decision making such as extent of work up, admission vs. discharge, etc.
For ED patients who require admission:
- RVP indicated: Immunocompromised patients (such as transplants and certain chronic medical conditions) and other patients at high risk for complications of infection.
- RVP usually not necessary: Immunocompetent patients (with or without chronic medical problems) – inpatient team may choose to order it themselves if desired.
- All inpatient rooms at Children’s are private rooms so we don’t need to use RVPs for cohorting purposes. Also, all respiratory illness patients need appropriate infection control precautions regardless of the result of the RVP.
We do not recommend referral to the emergency department just for RVP testing in well appearing children who have symptoms consistent with viral respiratory infection. For patients with symptoms concerning for influenza who are at higher risk (based on age, severity, or underlying medical conditions), treatment with antiviral medications can be started without the need for lab confirmation of influenza, (particularly during high flu prevalence).
If you have any questions about RVP testing, feel free to contact: Becky Burger, MD, BeckyBurger@emory.edu