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Unenhanced helical CT for suspected acute appendicitis.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was to determine the diagnostic accuracy of unenhanced helical CT scans in patients with a suspected acute appendicitis.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Over a 20-month period, 109 adult patients with suspected acute appendicitis were referred by the emergency department for an unenhanced helical CT scan. Each scan was obtained in a single breath-hold from the T12 vertebral body to the public symphysis using a 5-mm collimation and a pitch of 1.6. No patients were given oral or IV contrast media. The primary CT criteria for diagnosing acute appendicitis was the identification of an appendix with a transverse diameter larger than 6 mm with associated periappendiceal inflammatory changes. The presence of an appendicolith was considered a secondary finding as was isolated periappendiceal inflammation; however, appendicitis was not diagnosed in such patients unless an enlarged appendix was definitely identified. Final diagnoses were established by surgical or clinical follow-up and were compared with the original CT reports.

RESULTS: We found 66 true-negatives, 37 true-positives, four false-negatives, and two false-positives that yielded a sensitivity of 90%, a specificity of 97%, a positive predictive value of 95%, a negative predictive value of 95%, and an accuracy of 94%. An alternative diagnosis was established by an unenhanced helical CT scan in 24 patients (22%), which included cecal diverticulitis (seven patients), urinary tract disease (five patients), adnexal pathology (four patients), sigmoid diverticulitis (two patients), small bowel disease (three patients), right lower quadrant tumor (two patients), and an infected dialysis catheter (one patient).

CONCLUSION: Unenhanced thin-section helical CT is an accurate, effective technique for diagnosing acute appendicitis.

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