Purpose: To calculate the sensitivity and specificity of computed tomographic (CT) angiography in the diagnosis of cerebral aneurysms in patients with acute subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) at presentation.
Materials and methods: A systematic search for relevant studies was performed of the PubMed/MEDLINE and EMBASE databases. Two reviewers independently assessed the methodologic quality of each study by using the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies tool. The inclusion criteria were met by 50 studies. Heterogeneity was tested, and the presence of publication bias was visually assessed (by using a funnel plot). A meta-analysis of the reported sensitivity and specificity of each study with 95% confidence intervals (CIs) was performed on a per-patient level.
Results: Concerning sensitivity, the selected studies showed moderate heterogeneity. For specificity, low heterogeneity was observed. Moderate-heterogeneity studies that investigated only sensitivity or specificity were excluded from the pooled analyses by using a bivariate random effects model. The majority of the studies (n = 30) used a four-detector row CT scanner. The studies had good methodologic quality. Pooled sensitivity was 98% (95% CI: 97%, 99%), and pooled specificity was 100% (95% CI: 97%, 100%). Potential sources of variability among the studies were variations in the methodologic features (quality score), CT examination procedure (number of rows on the multidetector CT scanner), the standard of reference used, and the prevalence of ruptured intracranial aneurysms. There was evidence for publication bias, which may have led to overestimation of the diagnostic accuracy of CT angiography.
Conclusion: Multidetector CT angiography can be used as a primary examination tool in the diagnostic work-up of patients with SAH.