Computed tomography as a first-line investigation for elderly patients admitted to a surgical assessment unit

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BACKGROUNDIncreases in life expectancy has meant that a higher proportion of patients presenting to surgical assessment units are now elderly. Abdominal computed tomography (CT) can provide early and accurate diagnosis in the elderly, even in the presence of incomplete clinical and biological findings. The aim of this study was to investigate the use of early CT imaging in elderly patients presenting directly to the surgical assessment unit.MATERIALS AND METHODSAll consecutive patients aged 65 years and over admitted directly to the surgical assessment unit between January 2017 and April 2017 were identified. Data were collected on demographics, laboratory investigations, radiological investigations and hospital admission. The primary outcome measure was overall length of stay.RESULTSA total of 200 consecutive patients were identified and included over a six-month period. This comprised 110 women and 90 men with a median age of 78 years (range 64-98 years). A total of 83 patients underwent CT on admission to the surgical assessment unit. White cell count (WCC) and C-reactive protein (CRP) results were significantly higher in patients undergoing CT (P = 0.001). Median length of stay for patients undergoing CT was 5 days (range 1-19 days). This was significantly lower than those patients not receiving CT imaging, at 6 days (range 1-105 days; P = 0.034).DISCUSSIONCT should be considered as a first-line investigation when elderly patients with an acute abdomen are admitted to surgical assessment units. Early CT can accelerate hospital discharge and decrease overall length of hospital stay.

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