Use of Computerized Tomography in Abdominal Pain.
Annually, approximately 70 million computed tomography (CT) scans are performed in emergency department (ED) settings in the United States of America. From 1995 to 2007, there has been a 5.9-fold increase in the use of CT scans nationally. The radiation risks and high costs associated with CT scans underscore the fact that the imaging modality, although necessary, carries a myriad of long-term risks to both patients and providers. For the workup of abdominal pain, most algorithms include the use of CT scan as an early step. To understand better the use of CT scans in our ED, we performed a retrospective review of patients presenting to the ED with abdominal pain. Two main questions were addressed: 1) what were the reasons for scans and how often did the scans reveal pathology related to the presenting symptoms, 2) how often were incidental findings identified. Our results showed that among patients presenting with abdominal pain to the ED, 50 per cent of the scans were normal, about 20 per cent of the patients had findings correlating with acute abdominal pain, whereas the rest (30%) had incidental findings that may have led to further outpatient studies or long standing abdominal pain. Most patients who presented to the ED had nonspecific abdominal pain i.e. 64.4 per cent. There was a low agreement between the presenting quadrant of pain and final pathological diagnosis (9.5-33.3% concordance), with left flank pain presentation having the highest level of agreement with the final pathologic diagnosis.
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