Background: Structured preoperative data collection and computer-assisted methods are claimed to improve diagnostic accuracy in patients with acute abdominal pain. The aim of this study was to evaluate a possible age- and sex-related effect of using structured data collection in the preoperative diagnosis of patients with suspected acute appendicitis.
Methods: Between 1989 and 1994, clinical and demographic data from 1764 consecutive patients were recorded. In 1990 and 1992, various detailed symptom, clinical and laboratory data were collected prospectively on a structured registration form. Age- and sex-specific diagnostic accuracy as well as perforation rate were calculated for each year.
Results: Diagnostic accuracy increased significantly by 5 (95 per cent confidence interval (c.i.) 1-9) per cent when structured data registration was applied. In female patients aged between 13 and 40 years, diagnostic accuracy increased by 16 (95 per cent c.i. 8-24) per cent. Significant changes in diagnostic accuracy were not seen in other subgroups. Perforation rates remained unchanged during the entire study period.
Conclusion: In this population-based study, diagnostic accuracy in patients operated on for suspected acute appendicitis increased for all patients when structured preoperative data collection was used. However, the only subgroup with a significant increase in diagnostic accuracy was female patients aged between 13 and 40 years. Perforation rate was unaffected by structured data collection.