Pediatric Emergency Department Testing for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia in Children

Sundes Kazmir*, Mary Clyde Pierce, Kirsten Simonton, Jonathan Rodean, Mark I. Neuman, Norma Jean E. Simon, Elizabeth R. Alpern

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective This study aimed to describe trends in the utilization of nucleic acid amplification (NAAT) testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia in US pediatric emergency departments. Nucleic acid amplification has been recommended over genital culture by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for children evaluated for sexual abuse. Methods We conducted a multicenter study of children aged 12 months to 11 years tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia between 2004 and 2018 at 22 hospitals in the Pediatric Health Information System. We included patients diagnosed with maltreatment concerns and/or genitourinary (GU) symptoms. The primary outcome was prevalence of testing with NAAT, culture, or both. We analyzed groups based on patient sex, as well as diagnoses of maltreatment versus GU symptoms. Results A total of 36,312 visits were analyzed. Visits were 73.4% girls and 26.6% boys. During the study period, there was an increase in use of NAAT-only testing for girls (49.3% to 94.3%; P < 0.001) and boys (54.5% to 96.1%; P < 0.001). There was a decrease in use of culture alone for girls (40% to 1.6%; P < 0.001) and boys (38.7% to 0.8%; P < 0.001). Use of both tests in the same encounter was higher among children diagnosed with maltreatment than GU symptoms, regardless of sex (P < 0.001). Conclusions Over a 14-year period, downtrend of culture use with increase in NAAT was observed, suggesting general adherence to evidence-based guidelines. Almost 10% of children diagnosed with maltreatment continued to be tested with culture. This could indicate provider concerns regarding test accuracy, legal admissibility, or lack of test availability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-252
Number of pages6
JournalPediatric emergency care
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2022


  • child abuse
  • sexual abuse
  • sexually transmitted infections

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Emergency Medicine


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