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Original Research

Impact of the Abbreviated Suicide Crisis Syndrome Checklist on Clinical Decision Making in the Emergency Department

Ethan Karsen, MDa; Lisa J. Cohen, PhDb,*; Betsy White, LCSWa; Gabriele P. De Luca, MDc; Inna Goncearencoa; Igor I. Galynker, MDa; and Frederick E. Miller, MD, PhDa

Published: May 1, 2023


Objective: The suicide crisis syndrome (SCS), an acute negative affect state predictive of near-term suicidal behavior, is currently under review for inclusion as a suicide-specific diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). While the predictive validity of the SCS for near-term suicidal behavior is well documented, its real-world clinical utility has yet to be evaluated. As such, this study evaluated how implementation of a novel assessment tool, the Abbreviated SCS Checklist (A-SCS-C), into the electronic medical records (EMRs) influenced disposition decisions in the emergency departments (EDs) of a large urban health system.

Methods: Logistic regression analyses evaluated the impact of SCS diagnosis on 212 admission/discharge decisions after accounting for chief complaints of suicidal ideation (SI), suicidal behavior (SB), and psychosis/agitation.

Results: The A-SCS-C was concordant with 86.9% of all non-psychotic disposition decisions. In multivariable analysis, the A-SCS-C had an adjusted odds ratio (AOR) of 65.9 (95% confidence interval: 18.79–231.07) for inpatient admission, whereas neither suicidal ideation nor behavior was a significant predictor. The effect size remained very high in 3 sensitivity analyses, the first using information from a different section of the EMR, the second in patients younger than 18 years, and the third in males and females separately (AORs > 30).

Conclusions: SCS diagnosis, when implemented in ED EMRs alongside SI and SB, was strongly predictive of clinician decision making with regard to admission/discharge, particularly in non-psychotic patients, while SI and SB were noncontributory. Overall, our results show that the SCS, as a diagnostic entity, demonstrates robust clinical utility and may reduce the limitations of relying on self-reported SI as a primary basis of suicide risk assessment.

Volume: 84

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