Appendicitis, intussusception, and hypertrophic pyloric stenosis (HPS) are three of the most common reasons for emergent abdominal imaging in pediatric patients. Although the use of computed tomography has risen dramatically over the past 2 decades, children are particularly at risk for the adverse effects of ionizing radiation, and even low-dose radiation is associated with a small but significant increase in lifetime risk of fatal cancer. In most emergency departments, the use of magnetic resonance (MR) imaging as a primary modality for the evaluation of a child with abdominal pain remains impractical due to its high cost, its limited availability, and the frequent need for sedation. Ultrasonography (US) does not involve ionizing radiation and, unlike MR imaging, is relatively inexpensive, is widely available, and does not require sedation. Another major advantage of US in abdominal imaging is that it allows dynamic assessment of bowel peristalsis and compressibility. Delayed diagnosis of any of the aforementioned disease processes can lead to serious morbidity and, in some cases, death. The ability to diagnose or exclude disease with US should be part of a core radiology skill set for any practice that includes a pediatric population.
© RSNA, 2012