Limited-preparation CT colonography in frail elderly patients: a feasibility study

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2010 May;194(5):1279-87. doi: 10.2214/AJR.09.2896.


Objective: Full colonic preparation can be onerous and may be poorly tolerated in frail elderly patients. The purpose of this study was to prospectively assess the image quality and diagnostic yield of limited-preparation CT colonography (CTC) in elderly patients with suspected colorectal cancer who were deemed medically unfit or unsuitable for colonoscopy.

Subjects and methods: A prospective study was performed of 67 elderly patients with reduced functional status referred for CTC. Participants were prescribed a limited bowel preparation consisting of a low-residue diet for 3 days, 1 L of 2% oral diatrizoate meglumine (Gastrografin) 24 hours before CTC, and 1 L of 2% oral Gastrografin over the 2 hours immediately before CTC. No cathartic preparation was administered. All colonic segments were graded from 1 to 5 for image quality (1, unreadable; 2, poor; 3, equivocal; 4, good; 5, excellent) and reader confidence. Clinical and conventional colonoscopy follow-up findings were documented, and all colonic and extracolonic pathologic findings were documented.

Results: Overall image quality and reader confidence in the evaluation of the colon was rated good or excellent in 84% of the colonic segments. Colonic abnormalities were identified in 12 patients (18%), including four colonic tumors, two polyps, and seven colonic strictures. Incidental extraintestinal findings were detected in 43 patients (64%), including nine patients with lesions radiologically consistent with malignancy.

Conclusion: Limited-preparation low-dose CTC is a feasible and useful minimally invasive technique with which to evaluate the colon and exclude gross pathology (mass lesions and polyps > 1 cm) in elderly patients with diminished performance status, yielding good to excellent image quality.

MeSH terms

  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Colonography, Computed Tomographic / methods*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging*
  • Contrast Media
  • Diatrizoate Meglumine*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Frail Elderly
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Radiographic Image Enhancement / methods
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Contrast Media
  • Diatrizoate Meglumine