JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Impact of sonography on the diagnosis and treatment of acute lower abdominal pain in children and young adults.

OBJECTIVE: Our purpose was to evaluate the impact of sonographic data on clinical physicians' diagnostic confidence and their treatment of children and young adults with acute lower abdominal pain.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Senior surgical and emergency department staff completed questionnaires before and after abdominal sonography was performed on 94 of 101 consecutive children and young adults with acute lower abdominal pain, pelvic pain, or both. Physicians who were unaware of sonographic data stated the most likely diagnosis and their level of confidence in their diagnosis and then formulated clinical plans. After they were given sonographic data, physicians again stated the most likely diagnosis, estimated their level of confidence, and formulated revised treatment plans.

RESULTS: Sonographic data resulted in revised clinical diagnoses in 52% of the patients. Overall, the gain in diagnostic confidence for the entire study population was 33% (95% confidence interval [CI], 27-38%; p < .0001). The impact on the physicians' confidence was greater in those children and young adults whose diagnoses changed after sonography (mean increase in physicians' confidence, 48.3%; 95% CI, 47-75%). In patients whose diagnoses were not changed after sonography, the mean increase in physicians' confidence was 17.6% (95% CI, 11-24%; p < .0001 [analysis of variance]). Physicians used sonographic data to change initial treatment plans in 43 patients (46%). Of these 43 patients, a lower intensity of care was given to 30 patients (70%) and a higher intensity to 13 patients (30%).

CONCLUSION: Sonographic data frequently changed initial clinical diagnoses, thus increasing diagnostic confidence and changing clinical treatment decisions in the setting of acute lower abdominal pain in children and young adults.

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