Preoperative findings on non-specific CT in patients with primary acute intestinal ischemia: a case-control study

Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg. 2022 Aug;48(4):3025-3032. doi: 10.1007/s00068-021-01741-w. Epub 2021 Jul 3.


Purpose: Primary acute intestinal ischaemia (AII) is an abdominal catastrophe caused by intravascular obstruction of blood supply. It is difficult to diagnose. Computerized tomography (CT) scan is the modality of choice for diagnostic evaluation. Majority of previous studies have evaluated CT findings in patients where AII was suspected. However, unveiling the unique radiological findings also in not initially suspected AII patients, might lead to the timely management of AII patients, and is the aim of this study.

Methods: In a single-center, retrospective case-control study, preoperative radiological findings from abdominal CT scans in 48 patients with primary AII were compared with 80 non-ischemic controls. Radiological findings were analyzed using multivariable logistical regression with adjustment for age and gender and reported as odds ratios (OR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) and p values.

Results: Thirty-nine (81%) cases with AII were referred to an abdominal CT scan without a specific clinical suspicion of AII. Three main radiological categories (intestinal wall pathology [OR 7.4, CI 2.3-24.0, p value < 0.001], gastrointestinal vessel pathology [OR 19.3, CI 4.6-80.5, p value < 0.001) and intestinal diameter [OR 4.7, CI 1.6-13.4, p value 0.004]) were significantly different in AII patients. Subgroup analysis implied that pneumatosis intestinalis, increased contrast enhancement in the bowel wall, inferior mesenteric artery arteriosclerosis and colonic contraction were predictors of AII.

Conclusion: Radiological changes within the intestinal wall, luminal diameter and gastrointestinal vessels are independent predictors of AII. Awareness of these radiological findings, therefore, plays a central role in patients with an indistinct clinical picture in early recognition and treatment of a life-threatening AII.

Trial registration number: NCT04361110 (April 24, 2020), retrospectively registered.

Keywords: Acute intestinal ischaemia; Case; Computed tomography; Control study; Diagnostic imaging; Mesenteric ischaemia.

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Obstruction* / complications
  • Ischemia / diagnostic imaging
  • Mesenteric Ischemia* / diagnostic imaging
  • Mesenteric Ischemia* / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods

Associated data