Extracolonic findings at virtual colonoscopy: implications for screening programs

Am J Gastroenterol. 2001 Oct;96(10):3009-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1572-0241.2001.04679.x.


Objective: Virtual colonoscopy (VC) is an evolving technology proposed as a possible screening tool for colorectal cancer. In contrast to conventional colonoscopy, VC may detect extracolonic abdominal pathology. This may lead to unnecessary investigation of benign lesions, or may benefit the patient by identifying serious pathology at an early stage. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence and characteristics of extracolonic pathology found in patients undergoing VC.

Methods: A total of 100 patients aged > or = 55 yr, referred for colonoscopy for bowel symptoms or family history of bowel cancer, underwent VC. Axial views of the abdomen were reviewed prospectively by a single radiologist for extracolonic pathology. Patients with extracolonic abnormalities were referred to their local doctor or to a specialist clinic when appropriate. Case records were reviewed and treating doctors contacted to document subsequent investigations and procedures generated.

Results: Fifteen patients (15%) had extracolonic abnormalities detected. In four patients, the pathology had been diagnosed previously (umbilical hernia, gallbladder and renal calculi, 3.5-cm aortic aneurysm, ovarian cyst). Eleven patients had new abnormalities detected: ovarian cysts (three), liver cysts (two), uterine fibroids (two), gallstones (one), splenic calcifications (one), aortic aneurysm (one), and renal tumor (one). Two patients with ovarian cysts underwent surgery, and histology showed benign cysts.

Conclusions: Extracolonic abnormalities are common at VC. Most are benign, but may lead to investigative and procedural costs. These data should be carefully evaluated in feasibility and cost-effectiveness studies on colorectal cancer screening using VC.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aortic Aneurysm / diagnosis
  • Cholelithiasis / diagnosis
  • Colonoscopy / methods*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Hernia, Umbilical / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Kidney Calculi / diagnosis
  • Male
  • Mass Screening*
  • Middle Aged
  • Ovarian Cysts / diagnosis
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*