To diagnose appendicitis, doctors usually do a thorough physical exam, and sometimes combine it with a CT scan of the abdomen. Unfortunately, using abdominal CT scans to diagnose appendicitis exposes a child to radiation – and it can be difficult to get a good quality scan in children and adults who are thin with little abdominal fat. Is there a better way to the diagnosis of appendicitis?
Is Ultrasound a Better Way to Diagnose Appendicitis?
According to new research carried out at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, ultrasound may be a safer test for diagnosing appendicitis. When researchers compared ultrasound to abdominal CT scan, they found no greater rate of false-negative or false-positives with ultrasound than with CT scanning.
A child suspected of having appendicitis may require up to three CT scans to make the diagnosis. This exposes a child’s rapidly dividing tissues to a hefty dose of radiation. Children’s cells and tissues are more sensitive to radiation since they’re actively growing. On the other hand, an ultrasound imaging study involves no exposure to radiation.
Another Benefit of Diagnosing Appendicitis Using Ultrasound
It’s usually faster to do an ultrasound than a CT scan, which means a child can be diagnosed quicker with less wait time. This is important for a sick child who’s uncomfortable or in pain. Less radiation and little wait time is a winning combination for parents who are worried that their child has appendicitis.
A Drawback to Making the Diagnosis of Appendicitis with Ultrasound
The biggest drawback to using ultrasound to diagnose appendicitis is it requires a well-trained ultrasound technician who’s skilled at the procedure and is available around the clock. Not all hospitals have the staff at all hours to do this procedure, and so they resort to using a CT scan.
Making the Diagnosis of Appendicitis with Ultrasound: The Bottom Line?
Ultrasound is as reliable as a CT scan for diagnosing appendicitis in kids – and may be a superior option for children who are thin. Plus, it’s radiation-free. Not all children require imaging studies such as CT scan or ultrasound to diagnose appendicitis, but when they do, ultrasound may be a safe and effective alternative to a CT scan.
Medscape.com. “Ultrasonography Offers Safe, Radiation-Free Alternative to CT Scan for Diagnosis of Pediatric Appendicitis”