Role of helical CT in diagnosis of gallstone ileus and related conditions

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2005 Nov;185(5):1159-65. doi: 10.2214/AJR.04.1371.


Objective: Small-bowel obstruction from gallstone impaction is a pathological entity frequently observed in elderly patients with a history of cholelithiasis or cholecystitis. Diagnostic imaging plays a great role in the management of patients with suspected gallstone ileus and overall in the correct predictive diagnosis: in the last years, some experiences in radiologic diagnosis of this entity by sonography, abdominal plain film and CT, and occasionally MRI have been reported. Some questions related to gallstone ileus are to be considered: one of them is the possibility of recurrence, which increases the operatory risk in these patients. Recurrence may be due either to the presence of overlooked stones that were already in the bowel at the time of surgery but not identified and not removed or to the migration of other stones in patients not previously cholcystectomized. In cases of acute abdomen, establishing an effective conservative therapy may be a critical point. The aim of this retrospective study was to evaluate the capabilities of helical single-detector and MDCT scanners to allow a correct diagnosis of this disease.

Conclusion: Helical single-detector and MDCT may improve the diagnosis of gallstone ileus, providing important information regarding the exact number, size, and location of ectopic stones and the site of intestinal obstruction or direct visualization of a biliary-enteric fistula, to help clinicians in the therapeutic management of patients.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Gallstones / complications
  • Gallstones / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Ileus / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ileus / etiology
  • Intestinal Fistula / diagnostic imaging
  • Intestinal Fistula / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, Spiral Computed / methods*