The primary objective of this study was to establish the validity and reliability of 2 respiratory scores, the Respiratory Distress Assessment Instrument (RDAI) and the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin Respiratory Score (CHWRS), in bronchiolitis. A secondary objective was to identify the respiratory score components that most determine overall respiratory status.


This was a prospective cohort study in infants aged <1 year seen at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin for bronchiolitis. We evaluated: (1) discriminative validity (the score’s ability to discriminate between 2 different outcomes) of the respiratory scores to identify emergency department (ED) disposition by using receiver operating characteristic curves; and (2) construct validity (the score’s ability to measure what it is thought to measure, overall respiratory status) by using length of stay (LOS) as a proxy for disease severity and comparing correlations between changes in respiratory scores and LOS. Interrater reliability was established by using intraclass correlation. The contribution of individual respiratory score components to determine ED disposition was studied by using multivariate logistic regression.


A total of 195 infants were included. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was 0.68 for CHWRS versus 0.51 for RDAI in predicting disposition. There was no correlation between initial respiratory scores or change in respiratory scores over the first 24 hours and LOS. Item analysis revealed that oxygen delivery, subcostal retractions, and respiratory rate were independently correlated with ED disposition. The CHWRS was more reliable than the RDAI.


The CHWRS had modest discriminative validity in predicting ED disposition. Neither the CHWRS nor the RDAI had good construct validity. Respiratory rate, oxygen need, and presence of retractions were most useful in predicting ED disposition.

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