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Single institutional experience with initial ultrasound followed by computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging for acute appendicitis in adults

Abstract

Purpose

The objectives of this study was to assess the performance of ultrasound (US) for suspected appendicitis in adult patients and to evaluated the additive value of short-interval (within 1 week) computed tomography (CT) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) after performing an initial US.

Methods

In this IRB-approved, HIPAA-compliant, retrospective study, electronic medical records (EMRs) were queried for “US appendicitis” performed over a 2-year interval. EMR was reviewed for CT or MRI performed within 1 week of this exam, and if any new or additional information was available at subsequent exam. White count, patient disposition, and pathology, if surgery was performed, were also recorded.

Results

682 patients underwent US for appendicitis over a 2-year duration, age range from 18 to 92 years (average: 30.1 years, M:F = 141:541). Findings showed 126/682 patients with normal appendix, 75/682 uncomplicated appendicitis, and 4/682 with complicated appendicitis. When performed, no additional findings were seen in these groups on short-interval CT or MRI. 2/682 patients had equivocal findings on US but eventually had normal appendix identified on CT. Four hundred and seventy-three patients had non-visualized appendix, of which only 14/473 (3.1%) eventually had appendicitis.

Conclusions

Ultrasound is an effective initial modality for evaluating appendicitis even in adult patients. Once a normal appendix, uncomplicated or complicated appendicitis is identified on US, no further imaging is necessary. Very few patients with non-visualization of the appendix eventually have appendicitis. Hence, these patients can be managed with active clinical follow-up rather than immediate CT or MRI. Symptoms and clinical scoring systems can be used for triage of these patients.

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Correspondence to Priyanka Jha.

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Jha, P., Espinoza, N., Webb, E. et al. Single institutional experience with initial ultrasound followed by computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging for acute appendicitis in adults. Abdom Radiol 44, 2357–2365 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00261-019-01998-1

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Keywords

  • Appendicitis
  • Adults
  • Ultrasound
  • Follow-up
  • Computed tomography
  • Initial ultrasound