Radiographic imaging modalities for the patient in the emergency department with abdominal complaints

Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America
A J BillittierA Brunetto


The emergency physician should be aware of the sensitivity and specificity of any radiologic study being considered. Radiographic examinations should be used to answer specific questions raised by the history and physical examination. The need to obtain a given radiologic evaluation should be based on the potential information it may reveal and the likelihood that this information will alter patient care. This cost-effective approach minimizes unnecessary radiation exposure and has been advocated by many authorities. The emergency physician should resist the "knee jerk" tendency to order radiographs to reassure himself or herself of the safety of the patient at discharge. Documentational and legal concerns are equally invalid reasons, as is the feeling that "it's what we always order for patients with this abdominal complaint." A given study may be indicated if the yield is acceptable and treatment of the patient may be altered by the results.


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