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Kelly, BS;Bollard, SM;Weir, A;O'Brien, C;Mullen, D;Kerin, M;McCarthy, P
Improving diagnostic accuracy in clinically ambiguous paediatric appendicitis: a retrospective review of ultrasound and pathology findings with focus on the non-visualised appendix
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Objective: To compare pre-operative ultrasound to histopathological results and retrospectively assess the diagnostic accuracy of ultrasound in paediatric appendicitis.Methods: 5 year review of all appendectomies performed in patients <16 years old in a tertiary referral university hospital. 983 patients had an appendicectomy over the time period while 189 patients had a preoperative ultrasound. We retrospectively reviewed all of the preoperative imaging in conjunction with the reports for the 189 patients; our aim was to determine the sensitivity of preoperative ultrasound for the diagnosis of acute appendicitis.Results: Of the 189 patients who had an ultrasound, 102 had histology positive for appendicitis and 87 had normal histology. Sensitivity overall was 72.55% [95% confidence interval (CI) 62.82 to 80.92] and specificity was 77.01% (95% CI 66.75 to 85.36). A suggested ultrasound diagnosis of appendicitis made positive pathology three times more likely and a normal ultrasound made positive pathology three times less likely [positive-predictive value 3.16 (95% CI 2.11 to 4.72) negative predictive value 0.36 (95% CI 0.25 to 0.50)]. 77% (67/87) of the patients whose pathology was ultimately normal had an ultrasound which was either normal or suggested an alternative diagnosis. However, in the 33 (17%) of patients with a non-visualised appendix, no secondary signs of inflammation or alternative diagnosis 16 (48%) had pathologically confirmed appendicitis.Conclusion: Ultrasound has the potential to improve diagnostic accuracy in clinically ambiguous appendicitis.Advances in knowledge: This paper furthers the evidence on the efficacy of ultrasound as a diagnostic tool in acute appendicitis in children, especially when the diagnosis is clinically equivocal. It also sheds further light on the "non-visualized appendix" with almost half of these patients having pathologically confirmed appendicitis; meaning advanced imaging with CT or MR may be indicated in this cohort.
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