E Sala, C Beadsmoore, D Gibbons, A Shaw, M Gaskarth, T Groot-Wassink, C Watson, AK Dixon
BACKGROUND: To evaluate the value of early computed tomography (CT) on identifying clinically "unexpected" diagnosis in patients presenting with "non specific" acute abdominal pain. MATERIALS AND METHODS: All patients presenting to on-call surgeons with acute abdominal pain were eligible study participants. Patients were randomised to CT within one hour of admission or supine abdominal and erect chest radiography. Ninety-nine patients randomized to CT arm were reviewed for the purpose of this study. The number and severity of unexpected and/or incidental diagnoses detected on the CT were assessed. RESULTS: In 20 of the 99 patients CT revealed primary or secondary diagnoses, which were unexpected following the initial clinical examination and led to completely different therapeutic options. In 15 of those 20 patients CT revealed clinically unexpected conditions, whereas in two patients severe complications of the clinically suspected diagnosis were detected on CT. Five patients had significant incidental findings in addition to their primary diagnosis on CT. In two of these patient CT also revealed clinically unexpected diagnoses. CONCLUSION: Early CT has the advantage of detecting unexpected clinically significant primary and secondary diagnoses in patients presenting with acute abdominal pain and best guides the surgeon to the appropriate patient management.