Assessing the clinical utility of abdominal computed tomography in sepsis patients with unknown origin: A retrospective cohort study

Medicine (Baltimore). 2024 May 17;103(20):e38114. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000038114.


Early identification of the sources of infection in emergency department (ED) patients of sepsis remains challenging. Computed tomography (CT) has the potential to identify sources of infection. This retrospective study aimed to investigate the role of CT in identifying sources of infection in patients with sepsis without obvious infection foci in the ED. A retrospective chart review was conducted on patients with fever and sepsis visiting the ED of Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021. Data on patient demographics, vital signs, clinical symptoms, underlying medical conditions, laboratory results, administered interventions, length of hospital stay, and mortality outcomes were collected and analyzed. Of 218 patients included in the study, 139 (63.8%) had positive CT findings. The most common sources of infection detected by CT included liver abscesses, acute pyelonephritis, and cholangitis. Laboratory results showed that patients with positive CT findings had higher white blood cell and absolute neutrophil counts and lower hemoglobin levels. Positive blood culture results were more common in patients with positive CT findings. Additionally, the length of hospital stay was longer in the group with positive CT findings. Multivariate logistic regression analysis revealed that hemoglobin levels and positive blood culture results independently predicted positive CT findings in patients with fever or sepsis without an obvious source of infection. In patients with sepsis with an undetermined infection focus, those presenting with leukocytosis, anemia, and elevated absolute neutrophil counts tended to have positive findings on abdominal CT scans. These patients had high rates of bacteremia and longer lengths of stay. Abdominal CT remains a valuable diagnostic tool for identifying infection sources in carefully selected patients with sepsis of undetermined infection origins.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cholangitis / diagnostic imaging
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Fever of Unknown Origin / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data
  • Liver Abscess / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pyelonephritis / diagnostic imaging
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sepsis* / diagnostic imaging
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed* / methods