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Introduction Making an accurate diagnosis of acute appendicitis (AA) is vital to prevent the morbid complications associated with untreated AA. This is challenging in up to 30% of pediatric patients which is a significantly high number. Ultrasound (US) has been generally used as the initial mode of imaging in pediatric patients due to the lack of ionizing radiation. Given its variable accuracy, adjuvants such as secondary signs can be used to aid the radiologist in making an accurate diagnosis. Materials and methods Patients between the ages of two and sixteen years with acute abdominal pain suspicious for AA, who underwent right lower quadrant US between 2003 and 2016, were retrospectively identified. Corresponding computed tomography (CT) and histopathology findings were noted. Based on the presence of primary and secondary signs, results were classified into three groups to determine accuracy. Group 1 included all patients with a normal appendix or if the appendix was not visualized, no secondary signs were present. Group 2 patients were those in which the appendix was not clearly seen and they had one or more secondary signs of AA. Group 3 included all patients with primary signs of AA. The number of secondary signs and cases with perforated appendices were also correlated with sonographic accuracy. Results One thousand one hundred and fifteen patients met the inclusion criteria of which 29% had confirmatory AA. The positive appendectomy rate was 89% (337/380). Using a 3-category classification of US results, the sensitivity was 79%, specificity 97%, positive predictive value was 93%, negative predictive value was 91% and the overall accuracy was 91%. The presence of two or more secondary signs had a high likelihood of appendicitis. The perforation rate was 10% with the highest percentage seen in Group 2 patients. Conclusion Despite inescapable limiting factors, US should be used as first-line imaging for suspected appendicitis in pediatric patients especially since its accuracy rivals CT when the appendix is visualized. The use of secondary sonographic signs has solid potential to aid the radiologist in making an accurate diagnosis with our study demonstrating a proportional relationship between the number of secondary signs and the likelihood of true appendicitis. However, further investigation is needed to determine the individual accuracy of secondary signs and whether a certain combination of secondary signs has a higher association with appendicitis.

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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