Purpose: The indications for requesting a diagnostic test are important for the selection and timing of imaging protocols. We sought to evaluate the diagnostic yield and impact on patient disposition when evaluating computed tomography (CT) of the abdomen and pelvis in adult patients presenting with gastrointestinal bleeding (GIB) to the Emergency Department (ED).
Methods: This study was an observational cohort study of consecutive adult ED patients with ICD10 codes related to GIB between 5/5/2018 and 6/1/2020. CT reports were reviewed for indications, exam type and findings. Reports were classified as positive (active bleeding, recent bleeding or suspected etiology for GIB), negative or other significant findings. Methodological guidelines for reporting observational studies were followed (STROBE).
Results: Among 943 patients with GIB during the study period, 33% (n = 312) had an abdominopelvic CT ordered. Most CTs included contrast, 64.1% (n = 200) used a single portal venous phase and 28.9% (n = 90) were multi-phase. CT identified active bleeding in 4.2% (n = 13/312) and intraluminal blood in 2.9% (n = 9/312) patients. Patients that had GIB indications on the CT order (n = 142) were more likely to receive a multiphase study compared to those without GIB indication (n = 94) (43.0% vs. 8.5%, difference 34.5%, 95% CI 23.7% to 43.7%, p < 0.0001). Patients that received multiphase studies were more likely to have a source of GIB identified compared to single-phase (18.9% vs 1.5%, OR 15.3, 95% CI 4.4 to 53.7, p < 0.0001). In 40.3% (n = 117/290) of patients without bleeding, an intra-abdominal cause for their symptoms was identified. Those with GIB or with an identified cause were more likely to be admitted.
Conclusions: One-third of patients evaluated in the ED with GIB had a CT ordered. Active GIB was detected more often when multiphase exams were performed. Multiphase exams are done more often if GIB is listed in the CT indication. When a CT is positive, patients are more likely to be admitted or observed. Accurate indications are critical to optimize exam performance.
Keywords: Computed tomography angiography; Gastrointestinal; Hemorrhage; Multidetector computed tomography.
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