From: Reuters
Published February 27, 2008 06:06 PM

CT scans lower risk of unnecessary appendix surgery

BOSTON (Reuters) - The chance of having an appendix removed unnecessarily has plummeted since 1996 in the United States, possibly because more doctors are using CT scans to confirm appendicitis diagnoses, researchers said on Wednesday.

The likelihood of an unnecessary appendectomy went from 24 percent in 1996 down to 3 percent in 2006, according to a team led by Dr. Steven Raman at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Their survey of 1,081 people who had had an appendix removed, showed the use of CT scans to check for suspected appendicitis went from 20 percent in 1996 to 85 percent 10 years later.

About 8 percent of the population develops appendicitis at some point in their lives as the finger-like sac at the start of the large intestine becomes enlarged and inflamed.

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If the sac bursts, it can be fatal. Doctors have historically erred on the side of surgery when it looked like a patient with abdominal pain might have appendicitis.

The results appear in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine.

(Reporting by Gene Emery; editing by Maggie Fox and Todd Eastham)

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