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CT scans expose patients to radiation even as they help doctors spot serious health problems. Now a new study finds low-dose scans can readily spot appendicitis while reducing patients' radiation exposure.
"The results of this study suggest that the diagnostic CT scan radiation dose can be significantly decreased without impairing diagnostic accuracy," said lead study author Paulina Salminen, a professor of surgery at the University of Turku, in Finland.
The research included 989 patients admitted to the emergency department at Turku University Hospital with suspected acute appendicitis. Low-dose CT scans were conducted on 53% of the patients and 47% received standard-dose CT scans.
The overall accuracy in identifying patients with and without acute appendicitis was 98% with low-dose CT and 98.5% with standard-dose CT. The accuracy for differentiating between uncomplicated and complicated acute appendicitis was 90.3% with low-dose CT and 87.6% with standard-dose CT, the researchers said.
The findings show that low-dose and standard-dose CT scans are equally accurate in identifying appendicitis and in distinguishing between serious cases requiring surgery and those that can be treated with antibiotics alone, according to the authors of the study published Nov. 11 in the British Journal of Surgery.
"These findings will hopefully encourage physicians to implement low-dose CT modalities at emergency departments for acute appendicitis imaging to avoid unnecessary radiation in this very large patient population," Salminen said in a journal news release.
Appendicitis is one of the most common causes of hospital admissions, and appendix removal is one of the most common types of surgery worldwide.
However, it can be difficult to diagnose appendicitis, which may delay surgery or lead to unnecessary surgeries. Contrast-enhanced CT plays an important role in correctly diagnosing acute appendicitis, but there are concerns about radiation exposure.
Also, emergency surgery is no longer considered the only treatment for patients with uncomplicated acute appendicitis, so the emphasis during diagnosis has switched from just assessing whether a patient has appendicitis or not to determining whether it is uncomplicated or complicated acute appendicitis.
SOURCE: British Journal of Surgery, news release, Nov. 11, 2021
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