A systematic review and meta-analysis of diagnostic performance of imaging in acute cholecystitis

Radiology. 2012 Sep;264(3):708-20. doi: 10.1148/radiol.12111561. Epub 2012 Jul 12.


Purpose: To update previously summarized estimates of diagnostic accuracy for acute cholecystitis and to obtain summary estimates for more recently introduced modalities.

Materials and methods: A systematic search was performed in MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, and CINAHL databases up to March 2011 to identify studies about evaluation of imaging modalities in patients who were suspected of having acute cholecystitis. Inclusion criteria were explicit criteria for a positive test result, surgery and/or follow-up as the reference standard, and sufficient data to construct a 2 × 2 table. Studies about evaluation of predominantly acalculous cholecystitis in intensive care unit patients were excluded. Bivariate random-effects modeling was used to obtain summary estimates of sensitivity and specificity.

Results: Fifty-seven studies were included, with evaluation of 5859 patients. Sensitivity of cholescintigraphy (96%; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 94%, 97%) was significantly higher than sensitivity of ultrasonography (US) (81%; 95% CI: 75%, 87%) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging (85%; 95% CI: 66%, 95%). There were no significant differences in specificity among cholescintigraphy (90%; 95% CI: 86%, 93%), US (83%; 95% CI: 74%, 89%) and MR imaging (81%; 95% CI: 69%, 90%). Only one study about evaluation of computed tomography (CT) met the inclusion criteria; the reported sensitivity was 94% (95% CI: 73%, 99%) at a specificity of 59% (95% CI: 42%, 74%).

Conclusion: Cholescintigraphy has the highest diagnostic accuracy of all imaging modalities in detection of acute cholecystitis. The diagnostic accuracy of US has a substantial margin of error, comparable to that of MR imaging, while CT is still underevaluated.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cholecystitis, Acute / diagnosis*
  • Contrast Media
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Contrast Media
  • Radiopharmaceuticals