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Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association

An economic evaluation of point-of-care ultrasound for children presenting to the emergency department with suspected septic arthritis of the hip

Cate Bailey A * , Heather Deane B , Adam O’Brien B # and Kim Dalziel A #
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Melbourne Health Economics, Melbourne School of Population and Global Health University of Melbourne, 207 Bouverie Street, Vic. 3035, Australia.

B Department of Emergency Medicine, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, Vic., Australia.

* Correspondence to:

Australian Health Review 48(1) 37-44
Submitted: 18 October 2023  Accepted: 5 January 2024  Published: 25 January 2024

© 2024 The Author(s) (or their employer(s)). Published by CSIRO Publishing on behalf of AHHA.



Diagnosing septic arthritis of the hip in children is time-sensitive, with earlier diagnosis improving outcomes. Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) requires specialised training and resources in emergency departments (ED) to potentially lower costs through reducing patient time in ED. We aimed to compare the costs of using POCUS for suspected septic arthritis of the hip to current practice.


This study is embedded in a retrospective review of 190 cases of suspected cases of septic hip joint collected over 5 years to investigate patient length of stay and time to perform ultrasound. We multiplied time use by cost per bed hour comparing current practice with POCUS. The POCUS arm included training and equipment costs. Scenario, sensitivity, and threshold analyses were conducted. Costs were calculated in Australian dollars for 2022.


The current practice arm took 507 min from initial patient assessment to ultrasound examination, compared with 96 min for the POCUS arm. Cost per bed hour was estimated at $207 from hospital data. Total cost savings for POCUS compared to current practice were $35 821 per year assuming 38 cases of suspected arthritis of the hip per year, saving 228 bed hours per year. All scenario and sensitivity analyses were cost saving. Threshold analysis indicated that if the cost of a paediatric ED bed was higher than $51 per hour, POCUS would be cost saving.


There was significant cost saving potential for hospitals by switching to POCUS for suspected septic arthritis of the hip.

Keywords: costing study, economic evaluation, emergency care, expedient diagnosis, paediatric, POCUS, point-of-care ultrasound, suspected hip septic arthritis.


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