Use of Computed Tomography to Determine Perforation in Patients With Acute Appendicitis

Cameron E. Gaskill, Vlad V. Simianu, Jonathan Carnell, Daniel S. Hippe, Puneet Bhargava, David R. Flum, Giana H. Davidson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Purpose Urgent appendectomy has long been the standard of care for acute appendicitis. Six randomized trials have demonstrated that antibiotics can safely treat appendicitis, but approximately 1 in 4 of these patients eventually requires appendectomy. Overall treatment success may be limited by complex disease including perforation. Patients׳ success on antibiotic therapy may depend on preoperative identification of complex disease on imaging. However, the effectiveness of computed tomography (CT) in differentiating complex disease including perforated from nonperforated appendicitis remains to be determined. The purpose of this study was to assess the preoperative diagnostic accuracy of CT in determining appendiceal perforation in patients operated for acute appendicitis. Methods We performed a retrospective review of pathology and radiology reports from consecutive patients who presented to the emergency department with suspicion for acute appendicitis between January 2012 and May 2015. CT scans were re-reviewed by abdominal imaging fellowship-trained radiologists using standardized criteria, and the radiologists were blinded to pathology and surgical findings. Radiologists specifically noted presence or absence of periappendiceal gas, abscess, appendicolith, fat stranding, and bowel wall thickening. The overall radiologic impression as well as these specific imaging findings was compared to results of pathology and operative reports. Pathology reports were considered the standard for diagnostic accuracy. Results Eighty-nine patients (65% male, average age of 34 years) presenting with right lower quadrant pain underwent CT imaging and prompt appendectomy. Final pathology reported perforation in 48% (n = 43) of cases. Radiologic diagnosis of perforation was reported in 9% (n = 8), correctly identifying perforation in 37.5% (n = 3), and incorrectly reporting perforation in 62.5% of nonperforated cases per pathology. Radiology missed 93% (n = 40) of perforations postoperatively diagnosed by pathology. There was no secondary finding (fat stranding, diameter >13 mm, abscess, cecal wall thickening, periappendiceal gas, simple fluid collection, appendicolith, and phlegmon) with a clinically reliable sensitivity or specificity to predict perforated appendicitis. Surgeon׳s report of perforation was consistent with the pathology report of perforation in only 28% of cases. Conclusions The usefulness of a CT for determining perforation in acute appendicitis is limited, and methods to improve precision in identifying patients with complicated appendicitis should be explored as this may help for improving risk prediction for failure of treatment with antibiotic therapy and help guide patients and providers in shared decision-making for treatment options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-9
Number of pages4
JournalCurrent Problems in Diagnostic Radiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018

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