CT colonography in the detection of colorectal polyps and cancer: systematic review, meta-analysis, and proposed minimum data set for study level reporting

Radiology. 2005 Dec;237(3):893-904. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2373050176.


Purpose: To assess the methodologic quality of available data in published reports of computed tomographic (CT) colonography by performing systematic review and meta-analysis.

Materials and methods: The MEDLINE database was searched for colonography reports published between 1994 and 2003, without language restriction. The terms colonography, colography, CT colonoscopy, CT pneumocolon, virtual colonoscopy, and virtual endoscopy were used. Studies were selected if the focus was detection of colorectal polyps verified with within-subject reference colonoscopy by using key methodologic criteria based on information presented at the Fourth International Symposium on Virtual Colonoscopy (Boston, Mass). Two reviewers independently abstracted methodologic characteristics. Per-patient and per-polyp detection rates were extracted, and authors were contacted, when necessary. Per-patient sensitivity and specificity were calculated for different lesion size categories, and Forest plots were produced. Meta-analysis of paired sensitivity and specificity was conducted by using a hierarchical model that enabled estimation of summary receiver operating characteristic curves allowing for variation in diagnostic threshold, and the average operating point was calculated. Per-polyp sensitivity was also calculated.

Results: Of 1398 studies considered for inclusion, 24 met our criteria. There were 4181 patients with a study prevalence of abnormality of 15%-72%. Meta-analysis of 2610 patients, 206 of whom had large polyps, showed high per-patient average sensitivity (93%; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 73%, 98%) and specificity (97%; 95% CI: 95%, 99%) for colonography; sensitivity and specificity decreased to 86% (95% CI: 75%, 93%) and 86% (95% CI: 76%, 93%), respectively, when the threshold was lowered to include medium polyps. When polyps of all sizes were included, studies were too heterogeneous in sensitivity (range, 45%-97%) and specificity (range, 26%-97%) to allow meaningful meta-analysis. Of 150 cancers, 144 were detected (sensitivity, 95.9%; 95% CI: 91.4%, 98.5%). Data reporting was frequently incomplete, with no generally accepted format.

Conclusion: CT colonography seems sufficiently sensitive and specific in the detection of large and medium polyps; it is especially sensitive in the detection of symptomatic cancer. Studies are poorly reported, however, and the authors propose a minimum data set for study reporting.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Colonic Polyps / diagnostic imaging*
  • Colonography, Computed Tomographic*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Sensitivity and Specificity