Ultrasound a Promising Alternative to CT Scans in Diagnosing Appendicitis

While recent studies have shown that exposure to radiation from CT scans may considerably increase a child’s lifetime risk of cancer, over 80% of children undergoing diagnosis for appendicitis at general hospitals still receive CT scans.

However, doctors at the Washington University School of Medicine found that using ultrasound is a far less risky method of detecting appendicitis in children, as it utilizes sound waves as opposed to radiation in determining whether the child’s appendix needs to be surgically removed. At St. Louis Children’s Hospital, children are more often diagnosed using ultrasound scans and only 45% are diagnosed using CT scans. At general hospitals, only 20% of children being evaluated for appendicitis receive ultrasounds as opposed to CT scans.

Although CT scans carry more risk than ultrasound scans when identifying appendicitis in children, staff must undergo specific training to successfully execute and interpret the ultrasound. Because of this, CT scans are still much more widespread – although as St. Louis Children’s Hospital has shown, the use of ultrasound as an alternative is gaining traction in the medical community.