As concern for children’s exposure to medical radiation continues to mount, researchers at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore (CHAM) in New York have found that using an ultrasound-first approach to treat pediatric appendicitis produced comparable outcomes to using a computed tomography (CT) scan, the traditional approach. The study was published in the American Journal of Roentgenology.

 Partnered with the Image Gently campaign, a national effort to reduce radiation exposure in young children, CHAM found that using ultrasounds, which emit no radiation, did not result in longer hospital stays. CT scans have long been considered the standard diagnostic approach for appendicitis, one of the most commonly experienced conditions among American children. Rates of the condition have been increasing. During the course of the study, use of ultrasound as the primary imaging option increased from 33% to nearly 90%. In the same period, CT scan usage dropped from 43% to less than 10%.

“Our study, which took place during Montefiore’s transition to an ‘ultrasound-first’ model, shows that the percentage of patients who received ultrasound first significantly increased without impacting the median hospital length of stay, which remained consistent,” said Jessica Kurian, MD, one of the study’s authors and attending radiologist at CHAM. “These findings support the use of ultrasound in helping to reduce radiation exposure in kids and suggest this approach could be applied in the diagnosis of other conditions to minimize the cumulative radiation dose a child is exposed to over the course of a lifetime.”