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Systematic unenhanced CT for acute abdominal symptoms in the elderly patients improves both emergency department diagnosis and prompt clinical management.

European Radiology 2017 Februrary
OBJECTIVES: To assess the added-value of systematic unenhanced abdominal computed tomography (CT) on emergency department (ED) diagnosis and management accuracy compared to current practice, in elderly patients with non-traumatic acute abdominal symptoms.

METHODS: Institutional review board approval and informed consent were obtained. This prospective study included 401 consecutive patients 75 years of age or older, admitted to the ED with acute abdominal symptoms, and investigated by early systematic unenhanced abdominal CT scan. ED diagnosis and intended management before CT, after unenhanced CT, and after contrast CT if requested, were recorded. Diagnosis and management accuracies were evaluated and compared before CT (clinical strategy) and for two conditional strategies (current practice and systematic unenhanced CT). An expert clinical panel assigned a final diagnosis and management after a 3-month follow-up.

RESULTS: Systematic unenhanced CT significantly improved the accurate diagnosis (76.8% to 85%, p=1.1x10-6 ) and management (88.5% to 95.8%, p=2.6x10-6 ) rates compared to current practice. It allowed diagnosing 30.3% of acute unsuspected pathologies, 3.4% of which were unexpected surgical procedure requirement.

CONCLUSIONS: Systematic unenhanced abdominal CT improves ED diagnosis accuracy and appropriate management in elderly patients presenting with acute abdominal symptoms compared to current practice.

KEY POINTS: • Systematic unenhanced CT improves significantly diagnosis accuracy compared to current practice. • Systematic unenhanced CT optimizes appropriate hospitalization by increasing the number of discharged patients. • Systematic unenhanced CT allows detection of about one-third of acute unsuspected abdominal conditions. • It should allow boosting emergency department management decision-making confidence in old patients.

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