Appendicitis is a common surgical condition that frequently requires diagnostic imaging. Abdominal computed tomography (CT) is the gold standard for diagnosing appendicitis. Ultrasound offers a radiation-free modality; however, its availability outside business hours is limited in many emergency departments (EDs). The purpose of this study is to evaluate the test characteristics of emergency physician-performed point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) to diagnose appendicitis in a Canadian ED.
A health records review was performed on all ED patients who underwent POCUS to diagnose appendicitis from December 1, 2010 to December 4, 2015. The sensitivity, specificity, and likelihood ratios were calculated. The gold standard used for diagnosis was pathology, laparoscopy, CT scans, and a radiologist-performed ultrasound.
Ninety patients were included in the study, and 24 were diagnosed with appendicitis on POCUS. Ultimately, 18 were confirmed to have appendicitis through radiologist-performed imaging, laparoscopy, and pathology. The sensitivity and specificity of POCUS to diagnose appendicitis were 69.2% (95% CI, 48.1%-84.9%) and 90.6% (95% CI, 80.0%-96.1%), respectively.
POCUS has a high specificity for diagnosing acute appendicitis and has very similar characteristics to those of a radiologist-performed ultrasound. These findings are consistent with the current literature and have the potential to decrease patient morbidity, diagnostic delays, ED length of stay, and need for additional imaging.