Purpose: Since 1998, the use of advanced radiographic imaging with computed tomography (CT) and/or diagnostic ultrasound (US) has increased dramatically for the diagnosis of acute appendicitis in children. This study investigates the impact of this imaging on the evaluation, management, and outcome of pediatric patients who underwent appendectomy for suspected appendicitis.
Methods: Retrospective review of 197 consecutive children with a preoperative diagnosis of acute appendicitis, from January 2002 through May 2004, undergoing appendectomy at a university-affiliated community hospital by pediatric and general surgeons.
Results: Patients were divided into two groups: imaged (n = 106; 54%) and nonimaged (n = 91; 46%). Groups were similar with respect to age, sex, temperature, white blood count, and insurance status. Ninety-seven imaged patients had CT, 6 had US, and 3 had both CT and US. Seventy-one percent of imaging studies were ordered by emergency department physicians and 24% by treating surgeons. Average wait from emergency department triage to operative incision for the imaged and nonimaged groups was 12.1 and 5.4 hours, respectively (P < .0001). Both groups had similar perforation rates (imaged: 15.1%, nonimaged: 14.6%). Negative appendectomy rates were 10.4% (imaged) and 4.4% (nonimaged). Average hospital charges were 11,791 dollars (imaged) and 9360 dollars (nonimaged) (P = .001). Time on antibiotics, complication rates, and length of stay were similar for both groups.
Conclusions: More than half of pediatric patients with suspected appendicitis now undergo advanced imaging and experience a significant delay in surgical treatment with a 26% increase in hospital charges and no clear-cut improvement in diagnostic accuracy nor outcome, when compared with evaluation by the treating surgeons.