The objective of this study was to compare usage of computed tomography (CT) scan for evaluation of appendicitis in a children’s hospital emergency department before and after implementation of a clinical practice guideline focused on early surgical consultation before obtaining advanced imaging.
A multidisciplinary team met to create a pathway to formalize the evaluation of pediatric patients with abdominal pain. Computed tomography scan utilization rates were studied before and after pathway implementation.
Among patients who had appendectomy in the year before implementation (n = 70), 90% had CT scans, 6.9% had ultrasound, and 5.7% had no imaging. The negative appendectomy rate before implementation was 5.7%. In patients undergoing appendectomy in the postimplementation cohort (n = 96), 48% underwent CT, 39.6% underwent ultrasound, and 15.6% had no imaging. The negative appendectomy rate was 5.2%. We demonstrated a 41% decrease in CT use for patients undergoing appendectomy at our institution without an increase in the negative appendectomy rate or missed appendectomy. The results were even more striking when comparing the rate of CT scan use in the subset of patients undergoing appendectomy without imaging from an outside hospital. In these patients, CT scan utilization decreased from 82% to 20%, a 76% reduction in CT use in our facility after protocol implementation.
Implementation of a clinical evaluation pathway emphasizing examination, early surgeon involvement, and utilization of ultrasound as the initial imaging modality for evaluation of abdominal pain concerning for appendicitis resulted in a marked decrease in the reliance on CT scanning without loss of diagnostic accuracy.