Imaging pediatric acute appendicitis during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic: collateral damage is variable

Kelly K. Horst, Amy B. Kolbe, Jennifer S. McDonald, Adam T. Froemming, Ahmad Parvinian, Denise B. Klinkner, Larry A. Binkovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Since coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) was declared a worldwide pandemic in March 2020, many authors have noted the collateral damage on non-COVID-19-related illnesses. These indirect effects of the pandemic have resulted in people presenting later and with more severe stages of disease, even if their diagnoses are not directly related to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Objective: We studied these indirect effects of COVID-19 on the imaging workup and outcomes for pediatric patients at our center who had acute appendicitis during the pandemic. Materials and methods: We performed a retrospective review of cases in children ≤18 years who were evaluated for acute appendicitis during the same period, March 1 to May 31, in both 2019 and 2020. We compared demographic and clinical data as well as surgical and pathological findings, and we graded imaging findings according to severity. Differences in patient outcomes were assessed using the Wilcoxon rank sum test and the Pearson chi-square test. Results: The total number of pediatric patients evaluated with imaging for acute appendicitis dropped by 43% between 2019 and 2020 (298 vs. 169), but the total number of children treated remained similar (59 vs. 51). There was proportionate use of US and CT in each timeframe but a higher percentage of positive imaging findings in 2020 (50/169, 29.6% vs. 56/298, 18.7% in 2019, P=0.04). There were more imaging examinations with features of complicated appendicitis among positive cases (9/51, 18% vs. 5/59, 8% in 2019, P=0.08) and more pathologically proven perforated cases during the pandemic (14/51, 27% vs. 6/59, 10% in 2019, P=0.11), although these results did not reach statistical significance. There were no changes in surgical management, vital signs, laboratory values, length of stay or complication rates. Conclusion: There was a large drop in the number of pediatric patients imaged for acute appendicitis during the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic despite similar numbers of patients treated. The utilization trends of US vs. CT remained stable between time periods. The differences in imaging findings and perforation rates were less pronounced compared to other published studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1991-1999
Number of pages9
JournalPediatric Radiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Appendicitis
  • Children
  • Computed tomography
  • Coronavirus disease 2019
  • Pediatric radiology
  • Perforation
  • Ultrasound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


Dive into the research topics of 'Imaging pediatric acute appendicitis during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic: collateral damage is variable'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this