Accuracy and efficacy of nuclear scintigraphy for the detection of gastrointestinal bleeding

Arch Surg. 1997 Feb;132(2):196-9. doi: 10.1001/archsurg.1997.01430260094020.


Objectives: To determine the accuracy and cost-effectiveness of nuclear scintigraphy for the diagnosis and localization of gastrointestinal (GI) bleeding and to determine whether nuclear scintigraphy accurately predicts the results of angiography.

Design: Retrospective chart review. The following data were obtained from the medical records: age; diagnosis before scintigraphy; duration of bleeding; hemoglobin and hematocrit values; number and duration of blood transfusions; results of angiography and GI endoscopy; location of bleeding as determined by angiography, endoscopy, and nuclear scintigraphy; treatment received by patients; actual site of bleeding as documented in the medical record; and outcome of treatment.

Setting: Community hospital in a city with a population of approximately 100,000 and a catchment area of approximately 500,000.

Patients: One hundred fifty-five patients undergoing 161 nuclear scintigraphic examinations because of GI bleeding between January 1, 1989, and December 31, 1992.

Main outcome measures: Diagnosis and location of GI bleeding as determined by nuclear scintigraphy and angiography and actual site of GI bleeding as confirmed by operative intervention or endoscopy.

Results: Of 114 scintigraphic examinations for which the diagnosis and localization of GI bleeding were definite, results were positive in 56 (49.1%); of these 56, a definite location of the bleeding was shown in 51 cases (91.1%), and the bleeding was localized to its exact site in 22 cases (19.3%). Of the scintigraphic examinations for which results were positive, results of angiograms were positive in 7 cases, which gives nuclear scintigraphy a 39% positive predictive value for angiography.

Conclusion: The routine use of nuclear scintigraphy is neither accurate nor cost-effective for determining the site of GI bleeding in the community hospital.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Gastrointestinal Hemorrhage / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies