Prospective evaluation of a clinical practice guideline for diagnosis of appendicitis in children

Acad Emerg Med. 2012 Aug;19(8):886-93. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2012.01402.x. Epub 2012 Jul 31.


Objectives: The objective was to assess the performance of a clinical practice guideline for evaluation of possible appendicitis in children. The guideline incorporated risk stratification, staged imaging, and early surgical involvement in high-risk cases.

Methods: The authors prospectively evaluated the clinical guideline in one pediatric emergency department (ED) in a general teaching hospital. Patients were risk-stratified based on history, physical examination findings, and laboratory results. Imaging was ordered selectively based on risk category, with ultrasound (US) as the initial imaging modality. Computed tomography (CT) was ordered if the US was negative or indeterminate. Surgery was consulted before imaging in high-risk patients.

Results: A total of 475 patients were enrolled. Of those, 193 (41%) had appendicitis. No low-risk patient had appendicitis. Medium-risk patients had a 19% rate of appendicitis, and 83% of high-risk patients had appendicitis. Factors associated with an increased likelihood of appendicitis included decreased bowel sounds; rebound tenderness; and presence of psoas, obturator, or Rovsing's signs. Of the 475 patients, 276 (58%) were managed without a CT scan. Seventy-one of the 193 (37%) patients with appendicitis went to the operating room without any imaging. The rate of missed appendicitis was 2%, and the rate of negative appendectomy was 1%.

Conclusions: The clinical practice guideline performed well in a general teaching hospital. Rates of negative appendectomy and missed appendicitis were low and 58% of patients were managed without a CT scan.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Acute Disease
  • Adolescent
  • Appendicitis / diagnosis*
  • Appendicitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Appendicitis / surgery
  • Child
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed
  • Ultrasonography