A randomized, controlled trial of routine early abdominal computed tomography in patients presenting with non-specific acute abdominal pain
Aim: To compare the effect of an initial early computed tomography (CT) examination versus standard practice (SP) on the length of hospital stay, diagnostic accuracy, and mortality of adults presenting with acute abdominal pain. Materials and methods: Two hundred and five adults presenting with acute abdominal pain were randomized to undergo an early CT examination or current SP, which comprised supine abdominal and erect chest radiography. One hundred and ninety-eight patients (99 in each arm) were included in the analysis. The primary endpoint was the duration of inpatient stay; secondary endpoints were diagnostic certainty and mortality. Results: There was no significant difference in the length of hospital stay between the two arms (p = 0.20). At randomization 36% (35 of 96) of CT patients and 49% (48 of 98) of SP patients were correctly diagnosed; 24 h after randomization the correct diagnosis had been established in 84% of CT patients and 73% of SP patients. This refinement in diagnostic certainty was significantly better in the CT group (p < 0.001). There was no difference in mortality between the two trial arms (p = 0.31). Conclusion: Early abdominal CT in patients with acute abdominal pain improves diagnostic certainty, but does not reduce the length of hospital stay and 6 month mortality. © 2007 The Royal College of Radiologists.