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CT scans can help physicians to diagnose abdominal pain, reduce health care costs

November 09, 2015

Complete sets of questionnaires on the care of 584 patients were available for analysis. The CT scan results changed the diagnosis for 49 percent of patients and the management plan for 42 percent. The number of patients who would have been held for observation - possibly including additional diagnostic procedures - decreased 44 percent, and the number of planned hospital admissions was reduced almost 20 percent. The use of CT scanning significantly increased physicians' confidence in their diagnosis - both when the scan changed and when it did not change the prescan diagnosis - and that improvement was more pronounced in resident physicians than in staff physicians.

"Poor diagnostic certainty can lead to poor decision making," explains lead author Hani Abujudeh, MD, MBA, of MGH Radiology. "Increased certainty improves treatment planning and can reduce inappropriate utilization of hospital resources. Overall, the CT scan is an important tool for providing our patients with appropriate and timely care."

Gazelle adds, "While we didn't include a cost analysis in our study, it is fair to say that our results suggest the CT scan might reduce the use of other tests and procedures and therefore lower overall costs. Another benefit is that CT provides rapid results, which makes the workup process more efficient and can reduce both monetary costs and the time required to move patients through the ED."

Source: Massachusetts General Hospital