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J Pediatr Surg. 2004 Jun;39(6):880-5.

The optimal initial management of children with suspected appendicitis: a decision analysis.

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Division of Pediatric Surgery, Department of Surgery, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA.



As abdominal imaging has improved, the use of computed tomography (CT) and ultrasonography (US) for evaluating children with suspected appendicitis has increased. The purpose of this study was to determine the optimal management strategy for evaluating children with suspected appendicitis given the current accuracy of abdominal imaging.


Decision analysis was used to evaluate 5 management strategies: discharge, observation, CT, US, and appendectomy. Probabilities and time variables were obtained from publications and a chart review. Each approach was evaluated for its impact on length of stay, hospital charges, cost effectiveness and its capacity to minimize perforation and avoid negative appendectomy (risk-benefit).


Discharge was preferred when the probability of appendicitis was low (<0.09 to <0.47), imaging when in an intermediate range and surgery when high (>0.61 to >0.91). A role for observation was found only when the anticipated time of inpatient observation was brief (<9 hours). Although CT was more expensive than US, CT was more cost effective for preventing negative appendectomy and perforation and achieved a better risk-benefit.


CT has an important role in the management of suspected appendicitis. Among children with a low or high likelihood of appendicitis, the cost of imaging tests required to prevent the complications of appendicitis is high.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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