Does this child have appendicitis? A systematic review of clinical prediction rules for children with acute abdominal pain

J Clin Epidemiol. 2013 Jan;66(1):95-104. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2012.09.004.


Objectives: To systematically identify clinical prediction rules (CPRs) for children with suspected appendicitis and compare their methodological quality and performance.

Study design and setting: Included studies involved children aged 0-18 years with suspected appendicitis identified through MEDLINE and EMBASE from 1950 to 2012. The quality was assessed using 17 previously published items. The performance was evaluated using the sensitivity, negative likelihood ratio, and predicted frequency of appendicitis diagnosis that would result if the rule was used.

Results: Twelve studies fulfilled the inclusion criteria describing the derivation or validation of six unique CPRs involving 4,201 children with suspected appendicitis. Migratory pain, nausea or vomiting, and right lower quadrant tenderness were common predictors to all rules. Methodological quality varied widely. The most poorly addressed quality items were the predictor and outcome assessor blinding, predictor description, and reproducibility of predictor assessment. The most well-validated CPRs were the Pediatric Appendicitis Score (PAS) and MANTRELS (Migration, Anorexia, Nausea/vomiting, Tenderness in the right lower quadrant, Rebound pain, Elevation in temperature, Leukocytosis, Shift to the left)/Alvarado Score. Overall, the PAS validation studies outperformed the Alvarado validation studies.

Conclusion: The PAS and Alvarado scores were the most well validated but neither met the current performance benchmarks. A high quality, well validated, and consistently high-performing CPR was not identified. Further research is needed before a CPR for children with suspected appendicitis can be used in routine practice.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen, Acute / diagnosis
  • Abdomen, Acute / etiology*
  • Appendicitis / diagnosis*
  • Child
  • Decision Support Techniques*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans