CT Scans May Eliminate Unnecessary Appendix Surgeries

Unnecessary appendectomies have become drastically less common since 1996, thanks to the increased use of CT scanning in the diagnosis of acute appendicitis.  The finding was announced by a research team led by Dr. Steven Raman of the University of California – Los Angeles, and appears in a recent letter to the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

The incidence of unnecessary appendectomy was approximately 24% nationwide in 1996.  By 2006, the rate had fallen to 3%.  This latest survey conducted by UCLA researchers demonstrates that during the same period of time, the rate of CT use to confirm a diagnosis of appendicitis increased from 20% in 1996 to 85% in 2006. 

Authors of the new study report that approximately 8% of the U.S. population suffers appendicitis at some point in their lives.  The condition, which can become fatal, has historically been aggressively remedied with surgery — appendicitis is the most common indication for emergency abdominal surgery in the nation.  Appendectomies carry their own risks, however, and the procedure should not be performed unless necessary, the researchers warn.

Previously on the DC Metro Area Medical Malpractice Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:

  • A study demonstrating that technical errors are prevalent in U.S. surgeries
  • A report indicating that aggressive surgical interventions for breast cancer are on the rise
  • Information regarding the Institute for Healthcare Improvement "100,000 Lives" campaign

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