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Student Research explained

Pain over speed bumps in diagnosis of acute appendicitis: diagnostic accuracy study

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: (Published 19 December 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;345:e8347
  1. Kirsten Patrick, assistant editor, BMJ

The paper

Pain over speed bumps in diagnosis of acute appendicitis: diagnostic accuracy study by Helen F Ashdown and colleagues (BMJ 2012;345:e8012)


Objective—To assess the diagnostic accuracy of pain on travelling over speed bumps for the diagnosis of acute appendicitis.

Design—Prospective questionnaire based diagnostic accuracy study.

Setting—Secondary care surgical assessment unit at a district general hospital in the UK.

Participants—101 patients aged 17-76 years referred to the on-call surgical team for assessment of possible appendicitis.

Main outcome measures—Sensitivity, specificity, positive and negative predictive values, and positive and negative likelihood ratios for pain over speed bumps in diagnosing appendicitis, with histological diagnosis of appendicitis as the reference standard.

Results—The analysis included 64 participants who had travelled over speed bumps on their journey to hospital. Of these, 34 had a confirmed histological diagnosis of appendicitis, 33 of whom reported increased pain over speed bumps. The sensitivity was 97% (95% confidence interval 85% to 100%), and the specificity was 30% (15% to 49%). The positive predictive value was 61% (47% to 74%), and the negative predictive value was 90% (56% to 100%). The likelihood ratios were 1.4 (1.1 to 1.8) for a positive test result and 0.1 (0.0 to 0.7) for a negative result. Speed bumps had a better sensitivity and negative likelihood ratio than did other clinical features assessed, including migration of pain and rebound tenderness.

Conclusions—Presence of pain while travelling over speed bumps was associated with an increased likelihood of acute appendicitis. As a diagnostic variable, it compared favourably with other features commonly used in clinical assessment. Asking about speed bumps might contribute to clinical assessment and could be useful in telephone assessment of patients.

Why do the study?

As noted in a BMJ Easily Missed article published in 2011, acute appendicitis can be difficult to diagnose, …

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