Ultrasonography/MRI versus CT for diagnosing appendicitis

Pediatrics. 2014 Apr;133(4):586-93. doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-2128. Epub 2014 Mar 3.


Background: Cross-sectional imaging increases accuracy in diagnosing appendicitis. We hypothesized that a radiation-free imaging pathway of ultrasonography selectively followed by MRI would not change clinical end points compared with computed tomography (CT) for diagnosis of acute appendicitis in children.

Methods: We retrospectively reviewed children (<18 years old) who had diagnostic imaging for suspected acute appendicitis between November 2008 and October 2012. Before November 2010 CT was used as the primary imaging modality (group A); subsequently, ultrasonography was the primary imaging modality followed by MRI for equivocal findings (group B). Data collected included time from triage to imaging and treatment and results of imaging and pathology.

Results: Six hundred sixty-two patients had imaging for suspected appendicitis (group A = 265; group B = 397, of which 136 [51%] and 161 [41%], respectively, had positive imaging for appendicitis). Negative appendectomy rate was 2.5% for group A and 1.4% for group B. Perforation rate was similar for both groups. Time from triage to antibiotic administration and operation did not differ between groups A and B. There was higher proportion of positive imaging and appendectomies in group A and thus more negative imaging tests in group B (ultrasonography and MRI), but diagnostic accuracy of the 2 imaging pathways was similar.

Conclusions: In children with suspected acute appendicitis, a radiation-free diagnostic imaging of ultrasonography selectively followed by MRI is feasible and comparable to CT, with no difference in time to antibiotic administration, time to appendectomy, negative appendectomy rate, perforation rate, or length of stay.

Keywords: MRI; appendicitis; child; computed tomography; ultrasonography.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Appendicitis / diagnosis*
  • Appendicitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male
  • Multimodal Imaging*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Ultrasonography