Diagnostic accuracy of noncontrast computed tomography for appendicitis in adults: a systematic review

Ann Emerg Med. 2010 Jan;55(1):51-59.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.annemergmed.2009.06.509. Epub 2009 Sep 5.


Study objective: We seek to determine the diagnostic test characteristics of noncontrast computed tomography (CT) for appendicitis in the adult emergency department (ED) population.

Methods: We conducted a search of MEDLINE, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library, and the bibliographies of previous systematic reviews. Included studies assessed the diagnostic accuracy of noncontrast CT for acute appendicitis in adults by using the final diagnosis at surgery or follow-up at a minimum of 2 weeks as the reference standard. Studies were included only if the CT was completed using a multislice helical scanner. Two authors independently conducted the relevance screen of titles and abstracts, selected studies for the final inclusion, extracted data, and assessed study quality. Consensus was reached by conference, and any disagreements were adjudicated by a third reviewer. Unenhanced CT test performance was assessed with summary receiver operating characteristic curve analysis, with independently pooled sensitivity and specificity values across studies.

Results: The search yielded 1,258 publications; 7 studies met the inclusion criteria and provided a sample of 1,060 patients. The included studies were of high methodological quality with respect to appropriate patient spectrum and reference standard. Our pooled estimates for sensitivity and specificity were 92.7% (95% confidence interval 89.5% to 95.0%) and 96.1% (95% confidence interval 94.2% to 97.5%), respectively; the positive likelihood ratio=24 and the negative likelihood ratio=0.08.

Conclusion: We found the diagnostic accuracy of noncontrast CT for the diagnosis of acute appendicitis in the adult population to be adequate for clinical decisionmaking in the ED setting.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Appendicitis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • ROC Curve
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Spiral Computed*