Research Article

The erect abdominal radiograph in the acute abdomen: should its routine use be abandoned?

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985; 290 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.290.6486.1934 (Published 29 June 1985) Cite this as: Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;290:1934
  1. S Field,
  2. P J Guy,
  3. S M Upsdell,
  4. A E Scourfield

    Abstract

    The value of erect and supine abdominal radiographs and erect chest radiographs was analysed prospectively in 102 consecutive patients admitted to hospital with acute abdominal symptoms. The radiographs were reported on initially by junior surgeons of the admitting team, special note being made of the value of the erect abdominal radiograph over the combination of the supine abdominal radiograph and erect chest radiograph. On the basis of information obtained from the erect abdominal radiograph alone no changes in patient management were recorded. A consultant radiologist reported on the same radiographs at a later date. In five cases the erect abdominal radiograph was thought to have contributed useful or additional information, although in four of these cases abnormal features were visible in the supine film. In three of the five cases important but subtle information was missed by junior surgeons. In five of the 102 patients information obtained from the erect abdominal radiograph was potentially misleading. The small yield of positive information, potentially misleading features, and lack of effect on surgical management suggest that the routine use of the erect abdominal radiograph in the acute abdomen should be abandoned.