Acute bowel ischemia: Analysis of diagnostic error by overlooked findings at MDCT angiography

Maria Cristina Firetto, Alessandro A. Lemos, Aldo Marini, Ettore Contessini Avesani, Pietro R. Biondetti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


To retrospectively evaluate the frequency and type of findings that were missed in the original reports of multi-detector CT angiography (MDCTA) in patients with suspected acute bowel ischemia. From January 2007 to March 2011, a series of 35 patients who underwent MDCTA of the abdomen and pelvis and had surgery were included. The reports of the initial CT were retrospectively compared with the discharge diagnosis and surgical reports. Discrepant or missing findings were re-evaluated and divided into relevant or not relevant regarding the diagnosis. In 23 of the 35 patients (66 %), all findings were correctly diagnosed in the initial MDCTA report. In the remaining 12 of the 35 patients (34 %), lesions that were not reported were present at surgery. In 10 of the 12 (83 %) patients, the overlooked findings were relevant and subtle: gas in the portal vein (n = 3), gas in the bowel wall (n = 3), gas in the portal vein and bowel wall (n = 2), thrombotic occlusion of the superior mesenteric artery (n = 1), and thrombotic occlusion of the inferior mesenteric artery (n = 1). In 2 of the 12 (17 %) patients in whom the MDCTA-overlooked findings were classified as non-relevant, bowel ischemia was found at surgery. With retrospective image interpretation, 83 % of the patients with occlusive mesenteric ischemia at surgery were correctly identified, whereas the remaining 17 % with non-occlusive mesenteric ischemia at surgery showed non-relevant findings at MDCTA. About 33 % of relevant findings of bowel ischemia were overlooked by the initial MDCTA interpretation, most were subtle findings. However, secondary reading revealed most of these findings and can serve to improve diagnostic performance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-147
Number of pages9
JournalEmergency Radiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013


  • Acute abdomen
  • Acute bowel ischemia
  • Diagnosis
  • Multi-detector CT angiography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Emergency Medicine


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