Monday Bits and Bytes: Yep, There's an App for That

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It seems like smart phones can do just about anything these days -- according to new research, radiologists can even use them to accurately diagnose acute appendicitis, provided they have the right software. In a study performed at UVA, five radiologists used an iPhone to attempt to diagnose acute appendicitis from CT scans of 25 patients presenting with right lower abdomen pain. Fifteen of the 25 patients were properly diagnosed using the phones, and there were no false positive readings. "The iPhone interpretations of the CT scans were as accurate as the interpretations viewed on dedicated PACS workstations," said the study's lead author.

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According to a study presented today at RSNA, physically active middle-aged men and women run the risk of damaging their knees and increasing their odds of developing osteoarthritis. In comparing 236 asymptomatic participants stratified according to their levels of physical activity, researchers using musculoskeletal MRI detected a link between several hours of exercise per week and severity of knee damage. "This study and previous studies suggest that high-impact, weight-bearing physical activity may be worse for cartilage health," said the study's lead author. "Conversely, low-impact activities, such as swimming and cycling, may protect diseased cartilage and prevent healthy cartilage from developing disease."

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Ruh-roh. Nobody tell the government that a new study finds that a large percentage of patients who undergo pelvic/abdominal CT wind up getting unnecessary additional imaging series, resulting in excess radiation exposure -- and, of course, excess cost. According to fresh research out of the University of Wisconsin in Madison, out of 500 patients who received abdominal or pelvic CT examinations at outside institutions, 261 received some kind of unindicated, unnecessary imaging. (That's more than half, if you're counting.) "We suspect that at many institutions there is a lack of focus on selecting CT protocols tailored specifically to answer the clinical question," said a study co-author. "It is certainly easier to select a 'one size fits all' approach."

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Elastography, that perennial hot topic, is finally gaining some ground, and research presented today at RSNA will certainly help. According to a study out of Elizabeth Wende Breast Care, ultrasound elastography can be used in conjunction with breast ultrasound to rule out benign lesions, resulting in fewer unnecessary breast biopsies. "There's a lot of room to improve specificity with ultrasound, and elastography can help us do that," said the study's lead author. "It's an easy way to eliminate needle biopsy for something that's probably benign."