Low rate of syphilis screening among high-risk emergency department patients tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia infections

Douglas A.E. White, Harrison J. Alter, Nathan A. Irvin, Melissa C. Clark, Bradley W. Frazee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Implementing national recommendations for syphilis screening is not feasible in the emergency department (ED) setting. The purpose of this study was to determine the syphilis screening rate among ED patients tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia (GC/CT) and the syphilis prevalence among those who were tested. Methods: A 1-year retrospective cohort study in an urban ED. At the time of this study, there were no explicit syphilis screening guidelines and testing was at the discretion of the treating physician. We determined the proportion of all GC/CT-tested patients who also underwent syphilis screening and the prevalence of syphilis among this group. Predictors of syphilis screening among patients tested for GC/CT were identified. Results: GC/CT tests were performed in 3951 (4.7%) of the 83,988 ED visits, of which 332 (8.4%) were reactive. The mean age of GC/CT-tested patients was 22.6 ± 12 years, most were female (67%), black (47%), and English speaking (74%). Syphilis screening was completed in 1218 (31%) of the GC/CT-tested patients, 17 tests (1.4%) were reactive, which included 8 (0.7%) unique patients with newly diagnosed syphilis. In multivariable analysis, the following variables were predictive of syphilis screening: empirical GC/CT treatment (odds ratio [OR]: 1.9, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.6-2.3), evaluation in the low acuity section of the ED (OR: 1.8, 95% CI: 1.4-2.3), a reactive GC/CT test (OR: 1.3, 95% CI: 1.0-1.6), and age ≤25 years (OR: 1.2, 95% CI: 1.0-1.4). Conclusion: Among ED patients tested for GC/CT, less than one-third were screened for syphilis. Failure to screen these patients likely resulted in missed opportunities for syphilis diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)286-290
Number of pages5
JournalSexually transmitted diseases
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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