Not FIT for Use: Fecal Immunochemical Testing in the Inpatient and Emergency Settings

Published:September 08, 2021DOI:



      Fecal immunochemical testing (FIT) is widely used for colorectal cancer screening, its only indication. Its effect on clinical decision-making beyond screening is unknown. We studied the use of FIT in emergency and inpatient settings and its impact on patient care.


      Using electronic medical records, we reviewed all non-ambulatory FITs performed from November 2017 to October 2019 at a tertiary care community hospital. We collected data on demographics, indications, gastroenterology consultations, and endoscopic procedures. Multivariate logistic regression was performed to determine the effect of FIT on gastroenterology consultation and endoscopy.


      We identified 550 patients with at least 1 FIT test. Only 3 FITs (0.5%) were performed for colorectal cancer screening. FITs were primarily ordered from the emergency department (45.3%) or inpatient hospital floor (42.2%). Anemia (44.0%), followed by gastrointestinal bleeding (40.9%), were the most common indications. FIT was positive in 253 patients (46.0%), and gastroenterology consultation was obtained for 47.4% (n = 120), compared with 14.5% (n = 43) of the 297 FIT-negative patients (odds ratio 3.28; 95% confidence interval, 2.23-4.82, P < .0001). A potential bleeding source was identified in 80% of patients with reported or witnessed overt gastrointestinal bleeding, a similar proportion (80.7%; P = .92) to patients who were FIT positive with overt gastrointestinal bleeding. Multivariate analysis showed that melena, hematemesis, and a positive FIT were associated with gastroenterology consultation (all P < .05), while only melena (odds ratio 3.34; 95% confidence interval, 1.48-7.54) was associated with endoscopy.


      Nearly all emergency department and inpatient FIT use was inappropriate. FIT resulted in more gastroenterology consultation but was not independently associated with inpatient endoscopy.


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