Do we need imaging to diagnose appendicitis in children?

  • A Di Cesare
  • F Parolini
  • A Morandi
  • E Leva
  • M Torricelli
Keywords: Appendicitis, children, computed tomography, negative appendectomy rate, ultrasonography


Background: To evaluate the role of clinical assessment with selective use of imaging studies in the management of suspected acute appendicitis in

Patients and Methods: Medical records of children referred to Emergency Room in 2010 for suspected appendicitis were retrospectively reviewed. Diagnostic investigations divided by age and sex were related to  pathological findings. Negative appendectomy and complication rates
were calculated.

Results: 923 children needed surgical assessment: In 75.7% of them surgical indication was excluded and 24.3% were admitted to surgical ward for observation. Appendectomy was eventually performed in 137 patients (61.9%), 82.4% of them without any preoperative imaging while 17.6% underwent selective studies, mainly abdominal   ultrasonography (14.6%). Imaging was requested twice as frequently in not operated admitted   children (39.3%)  than in the operated ones (17.5%, P < 0.001). Overall complicated appendicitis rate (peritonitis and abscess) resulted 26.4% and negative appendectomy rate 8.8%. Females older than 10 years presented histologically not-confirmed appendicitis in 22.2% of cases, while the younger ones presented more frequently  complicated appendicitis (29.3%).

Conclusions: Clinical assessment is the key to diagnose appendicitis. Nevertheless, in girls older than 10 years, selected use of imaging should be implemented to avoid unnecessary appendectomies. Imaging of choice in equivocal cases should be ultrasonography.

Key Words: Appendicitis, children, computed tomography, negative appendectomy rate, ultrasonography


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eISSN: 0189-6725