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CHOP Experts Create Vital Sign Reference Curves for Children in Hospitals

Published on March 25, 2013 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 4 months 2 weeks ago


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A team of clinician-researchers from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has created and validated the first set of standardized vital sign curves for heart rates and respiratory rates in hospitalized children. Similar to the long-established growth curves that generations of pediatricians have used while measuring children during office visits, physicians caring for children in hospital settings can now use these new reference tools to help recognize and respond quickly to early signs of clinical deterioration in their patients.

Christopher P. Bonafide, MD, MSCE, of the Division of General Pediatrics, led the study team that published an article in the eFirst pages of the journal Pediatrics on March 11.

“Our team was very surprised to learn that there were no ‘normal values’ published for heart rate and respiratory rate based on data from hospitalized children,” said Dr. Bonafide. “Since these vital signs vary a lot by age, we created these reference curves using electronic medical records from both CHOP and Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.”

To create the curves, the researchers analyzed vital signs from over 14,000 inpatients in general hospital wards between the ages of 0 and 18 years.

“These evidence-based percentile curves of vital signs will help rapidly alert doctors to hospitalized children who are very sick and may urgently need to be in the intensive care unit,” Dr. Bonafide added.

To learn more about the many services offered by the Division of General Pediatrics, see the Hospital’s website.