Acute appendicitis: comparison of helical CT diagnosis focused technique with oral contrast material versus nonfocused technique with oral and intravenous contrast material

Radiology. 2001 Sep;220(3):683-90. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2202001557.


Purpose: To compare the diagnostic accuracy of focused helical computed tomography (CT) with orally administered contrast material with that of nonfocused helical CT with orally and intravenously administered contrast material.

Materials and methods: After receiving oral contrast material, 228 patients with clinically suspected appendicitis underwent focused appendiceal CT (5-mm section thickness, 15-cm coverage in the right lower quadrant). Immediately thereafter, helical CT of the entire abdomen and pelvis was performed following intravenous administration of contrast material (abdomen, 7-mm section thickness; pelvis, 5-mm section thickness). Studies were separated and independently interpreted by three observers who were blinded to patient names. Diagnoses were established by means of surgical and/or clinical follow-up findings.

Results: Fifty-one (22.4%) of 228 patients had acute appendicitis. Readers diagnosed appendicitis with 83.3%, 73.8%, and 71.4% sensitivity and 93.0%, 92.3%, and 97.9% specificity with focused nonenhanced appendiceal CT. Readers diagnosed appendicitis with 92.9%, 92.9%, and 88.1% sensitivity and 93.7%, 95.1%, and 96.5% specificity with nonfocused enhanced CT. Summary areas under the receiver operating characteristic curve estimates for focused nonenhanced and nonfocused enhanced CT were 0.916 and 0.964, respectively; the differences were statistically significant (P <.05) for two of three readers. All readers demonstrated higher sensitivities for detecting the inflamed appendix with nonfocused enhanced CT. Appendicitis was missed with focused CT in two patients whose inflamed appendix was not included in the imaging of the right lower quadrant. All readers were significantly more confident in diagnosing alternative conditions with nonfocused enhanced CT.

Conclusion: Diagnostic accuracy of helical CT for acute appendicitis improved significantly with use of intravenous contrast material.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Appendicitis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Contrast Media / administration & dosage*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*


  • Contrast Media