Multimodality approach for imaging of non-traumatic acute abdominal emergencies

Kiran Gangadhar, Ania Kielar, Manjiri K. Dighe, Ryan O’Malley, Carolyn Wang, Joel A. Gross, Malak Itani, Neeraj Lalwani

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


“Acute abdomen” includes spectrum of medical and surgical conditions ranging from a less severe to life-threatening conditions in a patient presenting with severe abdominal pain that develops over a period of hours. Accurate and rapid diagnosis of these conditions helps in reducing related complications. Clinical assessment is often difficult due to availability of over-the-counter analgesics, leading to less specific physical findings. The key clinical decision is to determine whether surgical intervention is required. Laboratory and conventional radiographic findings are often non-specific. Thus, cross-sectional imaging plays a pivotal role for helping direct management of acute abdomen. Computed tomography is the primary imaging modality used for these cases due to fast image acquisition, although US is more specific for conditions such as acute cholecystitis. Magnetic resonance imaging or ultrasound is very helpful in patients who are particularly sensitive to radiation exposure, such as pregnant women and pediatric patients. In addition, MRI is an excellent problem-solving modality in certain conditions such as assessment for choledocholithiasis in patients with right upper quadrant pain. In this review, we discuss a multimodality approach for the usual causes of non-traumatic acute abdomen including acute appendicitis, diverticulitis, cholecystitis, and small bowel obstruction. A brief review of other relatively less frequent but important causes of acute abdomen, such as perforated viscus and bowel ischemia, is also included.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-148
Number of pages13
JournalAbdominal Radiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • ACR appropriateness criteria
  • Acute abdomen
  • Acute appendicitis
  • CT
  • Cholecystitis
  • Diverticulitis
  • Imaging
  • MRI
  • Small bowel obstruction
  • Ultrasound


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