JOURNAL ARTICLE
RESEARCH SUPPORT, N.I.H., EXTRAMURAL
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Do clinical outcomes suffer during transition to an ultrasound-first paradigm for the evaluation of acute appendicitis in children?

OBJECTIVE: The objective of our study was to examine whether the rate of complicated appendicitis and the hospital length of stay (LOS) increased during the transition to an ultrasound-first paradigm for the imaging evaluation of acute appendicitis.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: All pediatric patients with surgically proven appendicitis from 2005 to 2011 were identified by searching the hospital billing database for the discharge diagnosis codes for simple appendicitis (ICD-9 [International Classification of Diseases, 9th revision] code 540.9) and complicated appendicitis (ICD-9 codes 540.0 and 540.1). Annual trends of the proportions of these patients who underwent ultrasound and CT were determined and plotted for the study period. Correlation of complicated appendicitis and median hospital LOS with calendar year was assessed using the Spearman (ρ) rank correlation test. RESULTS. Eight hundred four patients met the inclusion criteria. The percentage of patients who underwent CT only showed a moderate downward association with year (ρ = -0.32, p < 0.01), and the percentage of patients who underwent ultrasound first showed a moderate upward trend (ρ = 0.44, p < 0.01). The percentage of patients with ultrasound as the only study performed before appendectomy increased moderately over the 7-year study period (ρ = 0.33, p < 0.01). The percentage of patients with complicated appendicitis and the median hospital LOS did not increase significantly over the study duration (ρ = -0.01, p = 0.74 and ρ = -0.04, p = 0.25, respectively).

CONCLUSION: The transition to an ultrasound-first pathway for the imaging workup of acute appendicitis in children occurred without evidence of a corresponding increase in the proportion of patients with complicated appendicitis or in the median hospital LOS.

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