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CT Scans Help Detect Appendicitis, Avoid Unneeded Surgery, Study Finds

January 15, 1998

Computerized tomography scans are 98% accurate in detecting appendicitis and can prevent unnecessary surgery and hospitalization, according to a report in today's New England Journal of Medicine. Appendicitis, an infection that is treated by removing the appendix, is generally diagnosed on the basis of symptoms such as pain in the lower right abdomen, fever, nausea and a high white blood cell count.

But of the more than 250,000 cases of appendicitis in the United States each year, about 20% are missed, leading to more serious illness or death. And 15% to 40% of patients who have emergency surgery to remove the appendix turn out not to have appendicitis. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found that using CT scans saved hospitals an average of $447 per patient.

Compiled by Times medical writer Thomas H. Maugh II

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