Radiology report “disclaimers” increase the use of abdominal CT in the work-up of pediatric abdominal pain

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Abstract

Objective:

Pediatric abdominal pain is commonly evaluated in the emergency department (ED) initially by ultrasonography (U/S). Radiology reports often include commentary about U/S limitations and possible need for additional testing or evaluation independent of study interpretation. We sought to determine if presence of a “disclaimer” is associated with additional imaging.

Methods:

Design: Retrospective cohort. Setting: Community ED with volume of 85,000 annual visits. Population: Consecutive ED patients <21-years-old with appendix U/S over 12-months. Radiologist reports were assessed for disclaimers and if definitive diagnoses of appendicitis were made. The incidence of subsequent CT imaging was determined and group differences between categories were calculated.

Results:

441 eligible patients were identified with average age 11.7 years. Of all U/S studies, 26% were definitive for appendicitis and 74% were non-definitive. Disclaimers were included on 60% of all studies, including 13% of definitive studies and 76% of non-definitive studies. 25% of all studies including a disclaimer had follow-up CT versus 10% of studies without a disclaimer (15% difference; 95% CI: 9–21). For patients with definitive interpretations, 6% had follow-up CT with no significant difference between groups with or without a disclaimer. For patients with non-definitive studies, 26% with a disclaimer had follow-up CT scans versus 13% without a disclaimer (13% difference; 95% CI: 4–22).

Conclusions:

Appendix ultrasound interpretations often include a disclaimer, which leads to a 150% increase in follow-up CT imaging. We suggest that radiologists consider the impact of including such a disclaimer, knowing that this may contribute to possible unnecessary imaging.

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