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Consequences of peritonism in an emergency department setting

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      In patients who were referred to the emergency department (ED) with abdominal pain, it is crucial to determine the presence of peritonism to allow for appropriate handling and subsequent referral to stationary departments. We aimed to assess the incidence of perceived peritonism in a contemporary ED and to make a comparable characterization on specified endpoints, including hospital stay, performed acute surgery, and ordered imaging.


      A single-center study was performed during 2010 in a contemporary Danish ED. We evaluated 1,270 patients consecutively admitted to the ED and focused on the patients with abdominal pain. Following a physical examination, the patients with abdominal pain were divided into those who had clinical signs of peritonism and those who did not.


      Among the 1,270 patients admitted to the ED, 10% had abdominal pain. In addition, 41% of these patients were found to have signs indicative of peritonism, and 90% were admitted to the Department of Surgery (DS). Also, 24% of those patients with signs of peritonism and admission to the DS underwent surgical intervention in terms of laparotomy/laparoscopy. Five of the patients without peritonism underwent surgery. The patients perceived to have peritonism were younger at 34±3.0 years (mean ± standard error of the mean) than the patients who were not perceived to have peritonism, 52±2.8 years ( P<0.05). They also had a shorter length of stay of 38.2±6.0 hours at the DS versus 95.3±18.2 hours ( P<0.05). No differences with statistical significance were found regarding a stay in the emergency room (ER) or ordered imaging from the ER.


      Peritonism was a common finding in our setting. Peritonism did not require more acute surgery or imaging. The duration of the patient’s stay in the ER was not influenced by a finding of peritonism. The evaluation of peritonism needs to be improved in the ED.

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      Most cited references 12

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      Meta-analysis of the clinical and laboratory diagnosis of appendicitis.

       R Andersson (2003)
      The importance of specific elements in the clinical diagnosis of appendicitis is controversial. This review analyses the diagnostic value of elements of disease history, clinical findings and laboratory test results in suspected appendicitis. A systematic Medline search was made of all published studies on the clinical and laboratory diagnosis of appendicitis in patients admitted to hospital with suspected disease. Meta-analyses of receiver-operator characteristic (ROC) areas, and positive and negative likelihood ratios, of 28 diagnostic variables described in 24 studies are presented. Inflammatory response variables (granulocyte count, proportion of polymorphonuclear blood cells, white blood cell count and C-reactive protein concentration), descriptors of peritoneal irritation (rebound and percussion tenderness, guarding and rigidity) and migration of pain were the strongest discriminators, with ROC areas of 0.78 to 0.68. The discriminatory power of the inflammatory variables was particularly strong for perforated appendicitis, with ROC areas of 0.85 to 0.87. Appendicitis was likely when two or more inflammatory variables were increased and unlikely when all were normal. Although all clinical and laboratory variables are weak discriminators individually, they achieve a high discriminatory power when combined. Laboratory examination of the inflammatory response, clinical descriptors of peritoneal irritation, and a history of migration of pain yield the most important diagnostic information and should be included in any diagnostic assessment. Copyright 2004 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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        National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2005 emergency department summary.

        This report presents the most current (2005) nationally representative data on visits to hospital emergency departments (ED) in the United States. Statistics are presented on selected hospital, patient, and visit characteristics. Selected trends in ED utilization from 1995 through 2005 are also presented. Data are from the 2005 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS), the longest continuously running nationally representative survey of hospital ED and outpatient department (OPD) utilization. The NHAMCS collects data on visits to emergency and outpatient departments of nonfederal, short-stay, and general hospitals in the United States. Sample data are weighted to produce annual national estimates. During 2005, an estimated 115.3 million visits were made to hospital EDs, about 39.6 visits per 100 persons. This represents on average roughly 30,000 visits per ED in 2005, a 31 percent increase over 1995 (23,000). Visit rates have shown an increasing trend since 1995 for persons 22-49 years of age, 50-64 years of age, and 65 years of age and over. In 2005, about 0.5 million (0.4 percent) of visits were made by homeless individuals. Nearly 18 million patients arrived by ambulance (15.5 percent). At 1.9 percent of visits, the patient had been discharged from the hospital within the previous 7 days. Abdominal pain, chest pain, fever, and cough were the leading patient complaints, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all visits. Abdominal pain was the leading illness-related diagnosis at ED visits. There were an estimated 41.9 million injury-related visits or 14.4 visits per 100 persons. Diagnostic and screening services were provided at 71.1 percent of visits, and procedures were performed at 47.3 percent of visits. Medications were either given in the ED or prescribed at discharge at 76.7 percent of visits, resulting in 204.9 million drug mentions. On average, patients spent 56.3 minutes waiting to see a physician, and 3.3 hours for the full duration of their ED visit. About 12 percent of ED visits resulted in hospital admission. The average total length of stay for those admitted was 5.2 days, and the leading principal hospital discharge diagnosis was nonischemic heart disease.
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          Appendicitis: evaluation of sensitivity, specificity, and predictive values of US, Doppler US, and laboratory findings.

          To evaluate the sensitivity, specificity, negative predictive value (NPV), and positive predictive value (PPV) of ultrasonography (US), Doppler US, and laboratory findings in the diagnosis of appendicitis. A total of 125 consecutive patients suspected of having appendicitis were prospectively included for US appendiceal (diameter enlarged to 6 mm or greater, intraluminal fluid, lack of compressibility) and periappendiceal (periileal inflammatory changes, cecal wall thickening, periileal lymph nodes, peritoneal fluid) evaluation, Doppler US evaluation (appendiceal wall signal), and laboratory assessment (leukocytosis, C-reactive protein [CRP]). Definite diagnoses were established at surgery in 61 patients, at endoscopy with biopsy in two patients, and at clinical follow-up in 62 patients. The prevalence of appendicitis was 46%. The appendix was identified with US in 86% of the patients, which included 96% of patients with and 72% of patients without appendicitis. The most accurate appendiceal finding for appendicitis was a diameter of 6 mm or larger, with a sensitivity, specificity, NPV, and PPV of 98%. The lack of visualization of the appendix with US had an NPV of 90%. The most accurate periappendiceal finding of appendicitis was the presence of inflammatory fat changes, with an NPV of 91% and a PPV of 76%, whereas other findings had both NPV and PPV less than 65%. An increase in both white blood cell (WBC) count and CRP level had a PPV of 71%, whereas combined normal WBC count and CRP value had an NPV of 84%. A threshold 6-mm diameter of the appendix under compression is the most accurate US finding for appendicitis and has high NPV and PPV. Copyright RSNA, 2003

            Author and article information

            [1 ]Surgical Department, Holbaek Hospital, Smedelundsgade, Holbaek, Denmark
            [2 ]Emergency Department, Holbaek Hospital, Smedelundsgade, Holbaek, Denmark
            Author notes
            Correspondence: Thomas Bjørsum-Meyer, Department of Surgery, Svendborg hospital, Valdemarsgade 53, 5700 Svendborg, Denmark, Tel +45 27 89 60 80, Email thmey10@
            Open Access Emerg Med
            Open Access Emerg Med
            Open Access Emergency Medicine
            Open Access Emergency Medicine : OAEM
            Dove Medical Press
            20 December 2013
            : 6
            : 9-13
            27147873 4753981 10.2147/OAEM.S47798 oaem-6-009
            © 2014 Bjørsum-Meyer and Schmidt. This work is published by Dove Medical Press Limited, and licensed under Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License

            The full terms of the License are available at Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

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