Is oral contrast necessary for multidetector computed tomography imaging of patients with acute abdominal pain?
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PURPOSE: The purpose of our study was to validate the hypothesis that eliminating the use of oral contrast for multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) would not affect the detection of acute abdominal abnormalities in emergency room patients. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective study to assess the effect of discontinuing oral contrast use for MDCT scans of the abdomen and pelvis for patients presenting with acute abdominal pain and body mass index (BMI) >25. Patients with BMI <25 continued to receive oral contrast. The medical records were reviewed to determine the rate of repeat imaging within 7 days from the initial CT scan, as well as delayed or missed diagnoses related to the absence of oral contrast. The study was approved by the research ethics board at our institution. RESULTS: A total of 1378 patients had an MDCT examination of the abdomen and pelvis between November 1, 2012, and October 31, 2013. 375 patients met the inclusion criteria (174 males and 201 females; mean age 57 years; range 18-97 years). Seven of 375 (1.9%) patients had a repeat CT examination with oral contrast within 7 days. Of these 7 patients, none had a change in the course of their management due to the utilization of oral contrast. No delayed or missed diagnoses related to the absence of oral contrast were identified. CONCLUSION: Omitting oral contrast for imaging patients with BMI >25 presenting with acute abdominal pain resulted in no delayed or missed diagnoses, in our retrospective study. The benefits of prompt imaging diagnosis outweigh the unlikely need for repeat imaging.
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