Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis in the emergency department

Terese Lewis, Krysta Baack, Leigh Gomez, Heather Nichols, Caitlin Lemmons, Wesley Zeger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study objectives: Rabies is a zoonotic single-stranded RNA lyssavirus that can cause acute infections of the central nervous system (CNS) including encephalomyelitis, encephalitis, and meningoencephalitis that is progressively fatal. Rabies is more common in developing countries, but approximately 23,000 people in the United States (US) are estimated to have been exposed or to have received post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) yearly. Nebraska Medicine follows the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) guidelines for the vaccination series, as well as the 20 units/kg administration of immunoglobulin (RIG). Nebraska Medicine Medical Center (NMC) and Bellevue Medical Center (BMC) treat the scheduling of the complete rabies vaccine series differently. At both campuses, patients receive their immunoglobulin and first vaccine in the Emergency Department (ED). At NMC, patients are scheduled to receive the remainder of their vaccination series at the outpatient infusion center by the ED pharmacist. At BMC, the subsequent vaccinations are given as “Nurse Only” return visits to the ED. The objective of this study was to compare patient compliance of two different processes for follow-up rabies vaccine series completion. This project's primary aim was to determine the rate of patient compliance for follow up rabies vaccine doses. The secondary aims of this project were to determine if there was a difference in patient follow-up compliance between the two campuses, patient specific factors that impact compliance, and potential cost savings if a dose rounding protocol for RIG was utilized. Methods: This retrospective chart review was completed as a quality improvement project. Data from patients who had received either rabies immunoglobulin and/or a rabies vaccine, were >18 years of age, and were not admitted were collected for a 3-year period from July 1, 2019, to June 30, 2022. Data were abstracted from the patient's EMR (electronic medical records) using a SQL (Structured query language) query of pre-identified data elements. When unable to abstract with SQL query, data elements were manually abstracted. All data abstracted was collated and descriptive analysis performed. Results: A total of 723 individual encounters were identified during the study period. After combining rabies series for each individual patient, 173 unique patients remained. After exclusions were applied, 143 patients were included: 104 patients from NMC, and 39 from BMC. For the primary outcome, appropriate completion between the two campuses was 78.3%. When comparing the two campuses, completion rates were higher at NMC (82% vs. 69%), although not statistically significant (p = 0.12). Appropriate completion of vaccine series was statistically significant for both payor and exposure type. Application of a dose rounding policy with those >45 kg, rounding to the nearest vial, as well as rounding down if at the midpoint interval, 56 fewer vials would have been used between the two campuses. This would have resulted in a potential cost savings of $57,928.64 over the study period.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)202-205
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Apr 2024


  • Dose-rounding
  • Rabies
  • Rabies immunoglobulin
  • Rabies vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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