Preferable colonic investigations for isolated abdominal pain

South Med J. 2011 Mar;104(3):170-3. doi: 10.1097/SMJ.0b013e318200c38b.


Objectives: Isolated abdominal pain is seen as a poor indication for colonic investigations. The yield of serious pathology detected by optical colonoscopy (OC) has differed greatly in published series. This study aims to establish the yield of colonic investigations for isolated abdominal pain.

Methods: A retrospective analysis of the endoscopy database was undertaken on all OCs performed from 2000 to 2008. The yield of OCs for detection of pathology (polyps, cancers, and inflammatory bowel disease) was compared for the symptoms of abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, or anemia. Data on computed tomographic colonographies (CTC), performed for isolated abdominal pain in 2008, were used to compare the yield of CTCs and OCs.

Results: Of the 8564 OCs and 525 CTCs performed, 5.4% and 8.2% were undertaken for isolated abdominal pain, respectively. The yield of OCs for overall pathology detection was not significantly different for abdominal pain (23.87%), compared to other indications (20.34-24.85%). The yield of pathology detection was not significantly different for CTC (20.93%) and OC. Colonic polyps were the most common pathology (OC 16.05%, CTC 18.6%).

Conclusion: Colonic investigations undertaken for isolated abdominal pain had a high yield of incidental colonic pathology. The detection of polyps could be beneficial, but it does not explain the symptoms. CTC offers a less invasive way of detecting colonic pathology in such patients, while maintaining the same yield. If CTC is used as a first line of investigation, it could spare 75% of patients the colonoscopy procedure.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / diagnosis
  • Abdominal Pain / etiology*
  • Adult
  • Carcinoma / complications
  • Carcinoma / diagnosis*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Colon / pathology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / complications
  • Colonic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Colonic Polyps / complications
  • Colonic Polyps / diagnosis*
  • Colonoscopy
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / complications
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Patient Preference
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed