Focused versus screening CT scans for evaluation of nontraumatic abdominal pain in the emergency department

Kristy Thurston, Suma Magge, Robert Fuller, Anthony Voytovich, Jessica Lee, Robert Kozol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To evaluate the utility of computed tomography (CT) scans in patients with abdominal pain in the emergency department. We compared focused scans (having a single diagnosis in mind) and screening scans (having no diagnosis or more than one diagnosis in mind) with the hypothesis that focused scans will reveal pathology more often than screening scans. Treatment plans and patient outcomes were also compared between the two populations. Methods: This is a prospective study in which 100 patients who presented to an academic medical center with abdominal pain and underwent an abdominal CT were enrolled in the study. A chart review was later completed to gather ultimate outcome data for each of the enrolled subjects. Results: Of the 61 patients having a focused CT, pathology was identified on 63.9% of the scans, which did not differ significantly from the 65.4% of scans that revealed pathology in the screening group. In the focused group, anticipated admissions were reduced, but the reduction was not significant. The screening group did show a significant difference, with eight fewer patients being admitted than initially planned. The total number of patients deemed to require admission was significantly reduced by 15% following all CT scans. Conclusion: While there was no difference between the focused and screening groups in the rate of identifying pathology, there was a significant decline in number of patients requiring admission to the hospital in the "screening" CT group (when comparing emergency physicians' pre- and post-CT treatment plans).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-27
Number of pages3
JournalOpen Access Emergency Medicine
StatePublished - Nov 29 2010


  • Acute abdominal pain
  • Computed tomography
  • Emergency department
  • Focused
  • Screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


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