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ICEM: Abdominal X-Rays May Be Overused in ED

U.K. guidelines may need to be updated and modified specifically for use in emergency departments

MONDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) -- Plain abdominal X-rays may be overused in emergency departments, according to research presented this week at the 12th International Conference on Emergency Medicine in San Francisco.

E.J. Hulse, M.D., of Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, U.K., and colleagues performed a retrospective chart review of 101 patients aged 10 to 99 (54 male, 47 female) who underwent a plain abdominal X-ray in the emergency department of a large teaching hospital between January and February 2007.

The researchers found that 25 percent of abdominal X-rays ordered in the emergency department failed to meet Royal College of Radiologists guidelines for hospital settings, which indicate X-rays for any acute abdominal pain warranting admission, including obstruction, perforation and ingested foreign body. In 71 cases, they found that the X-ray result did not alter the decision to admit.

"A reduction in the number of abdominal X-rays would not only be cost effective but would mean less time in the emergency department and less radiation exposure for the patient," the authors conclude. "It is our recommendation that the Royal College of Radiologists guidelines should be updated and modified specifically for use in the emergency department."

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