Computed tomography use among children presenting to emergency departments with abdominal pain

Jahan Fahimi, Andrew Herring, Aaron Harries, Ralph Gonzales, Harrison Alter
Pediatrics 2012, 130 (5): e1069-75

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate trends in and factors associated with computed tomography (CT) use among children presenting to the emergency department (ED) with abdominal pain.

METHODS: This study was a cross-sectional, secondary analysis of the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data from 1998 to 2008. We identified ED patients aged <19 years with abdominal pain and collected patient demographic and hospital characteristics, and outcomes related to imaging, hospital admission, and diagnosis of appendicitis. Trend analysis was performed over the study period for the outcomes of interest, and a multivariate regression model was used to identify factors associated with CT use.

RESULTS: Of all pediatric ED visits, 6.0% were for abdominal pain. We noted a rise in the proportion of these patients with CT use, from 0.9% in 1998 to 15.4% in 2008 (P < .001), with no change in ultrasound/radiograph use, diagnosis of appendicitis, or hospital admission. Older and male patients were more likely to have a CT scan, whereas black children were one-half as likely to undergo a CT scan compared with white children (odds ratio: 0.50 [95% confidence interval: 0.31-0.81]). Admitted children had much higher odds of undergoing a CT scan (odds ratio: 4.11 [95% confidence interval: 2.66-6.35]). There was a plateau in CT use in 2006 to 2008.

CONCLUSIONS: There was a dramatic increase in the utilization of CT imaging in the ED evaluation of pediatric patients with abdominal pain. Some groups of children may have a differential likelihood of receiving CT scans.

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