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J Pediatr Surg. 2003 May;38(5):659-62.

Increased CT scan utilization does not improve the diagnostic accuracy of appendicitis in children.

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Department of Pediatric Surgery, The Children's Hospital, University of Colorado, Denver, CO, USA.



Appendicitis continues to present a diagnostic dilemma in children of all ages leading to increased utilization of radiographic studies. Focused computed tomography (CT) scanning has become the diagnostic test of choice in many hospitals. The purpose of this study was to critically evaluate the use of radiographic studies for the evaluation of acute appendicitis in children and to determine if diagnostic accuracy has improved.


Children undergoing appendectomy for acute appendicitis were reviewed from 1997 to 2001. Diagnostic workup (CT scan, ultrasound [US], or no radiographic study) was recorded as were the final pathology results.


Six hundred sixteen appendectomies were performed. Mean age was 10.4 +/- 4.1 years, and 60% were boys. Overall, 184 children (30%) underwent CT scanning, 104 (17%) had US performed, and 310 (50%) had no radiographic study (18 patients had both CT and US performed). A pathologically normal appendix was removed in 7% (14 of 202) of CT patients, 11% (14 of 122) of US patients, and 8% (26 of 310) of patients without a study. The frequency of CT scanning increased from 1.3% of all children in 1997 to 58% in 2001, whereas utilization of US decreased from 40% to 7%. Over the same period, the overall negative appendectomy rate did not change significantly from 8% to 7%.


With increased utilization of focused CT scanning, the negative appendectomy rate has remained unchanged. History and physical examination by an experienced surgeon is as accurate as CT in correctly diagnosing acute appendicitis in children.

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