According to a new study, the use of CT scans on children with non-traumatic abdominal pain has increased, in emergency rooms, annually between 1999 and 2007. The study is published online in the journal Radiology. The research team said that while they noted a significant increase in the use of CT on pediatrics, no marked increase in ultrasound use, in the same period, was noticed.
Non-traumatic abdominal pain is one of the main reasons of pediatric visits to the emergency department. Although CT scans provide images with high quality that help in diagnosing any abnormal condition, CT imaging includes delivering high doses of radiation to the patients. Exposure to high doses of radiation can result in serious issues on the long run.
Anastasia L. Hryhorczuk, M.D., clinical fellow at Children's Hospital Boston, said "Our findings help give us an overall understanding of places where we can tackle disparities of use and disparities in care," adding "Ideally, we'd like to see the same standard of care being applied across the country to protect children from unnecessary radiation exposure."
The study team said that their research indicated that the step-by-step assessment of pediatric patients was the favorable method for diagnosis of abdominal abnormalities, such as appendicitis. This assessment starts by using ultrasound for imaging, and then moving to CT scans if ultrasound results were not clear.
During their research, the study team reviewed data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS). The objective was to assess the use of medical imaging techniques on pediatric patients with acute abdominal pain in U.S. emergency departments.
In the period between 1999 and 2007, 16,900,000 pediatric visits to the emergency department took place. These visits involved children with acute abdominal pain. The probability of children undergoing CT scans increased during every year of the study period. However, there was no marked increase in the use of ultrasound during the same period.
It was noted that 3% only of the children were diagnosed with appendicitis after undergoing ultrasound and CT scans.