Author(s): Laurell H, Hansson LE, Gunnarsson U
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: To identify the differential diagnostic difficulties in acute abdominal pain at the emergency department and during hospitalization. MATERIAL AND METHODS: Patients with abdominal pain lasting for up to 7 days were registered during 1997-2000 and re-evaluated one year after discharge (n=2851). RESULTS: Diagnoses with low sensitivity at the emergency department but markedly increased sensitivity at discharge were non-specific abdominal pain with a sensitivity value at the emergency department of 0.43, appendicitis 0.80, gallstones 0.68, constipation 0.74 and peptic ulcer 0.26. Corresponding kappa-values were 0.48, 0.74, 0.84, 0.88 and 0.93, respectively. Malignancy, gynaecological complaints, dyspepsia, urinary tract infection and diverticulitis displayed fairly good concordance between the preliminary and discharge judgements, but the predictive diagnostic value was still low at discharge. Sensitivity values at discharge were 0.40, 0.75, 0.73, 0.77 and 0.83, respectively. Among 479 surgically treated patients, 104 initially received a diagnosis usually not requiring surgery and had a median delay until operation of 22 h (95\% CI 30-50 h), compared with 8 h (12-18 h) for referrals. CONCLUSIONS: Non-specific abdominal pain is the main differential diagnostic problem in the emergency department also for diagnoses requiring surgery. Constipation is a diagnostic pitfall and when making this diagnosis a careful re-evaluation is necessary.
This article was published in Scand J Gastroenterol
and referenced in Emergency Medicine: Open Access