Background: Radiologic imaging can accurately diagnose acute appendicitis, but little is known about its discriminatory capacity between complicated and uncomplicated appendicitis. Objective: This study aims to investigate the accuracy of imaging in discriminating complicated from uncomplicated appendicitis. Methods: Data was used from the prospective, nationwide, observational SNAPSHOT appendicitis database, including patients with suspected acute appendicitis who were planned for an appendectomy. Usage of ultrasound (US), CT, MRI or a combination was recorded. Radiological reports were used to group for complicated or uncomplicated appendicitis. The reference standard was based on operative and pathological findings. Primary outcomes were sensitivity and specificity in discriminating complicated from uncomplicated appendicitis. Secondary outcomes were diagnostic accuracy results per imaging modality and for the subgroups age, BMI, and sex. Results: Preoperative imaging was performed in 1964 patients. In 1434 patients (73%), only US was used; in 109 (6%) patients, only CT was used; and 421 (21%) patients underwent US followed by CT or MRI. Overall, imaging workup as practiced, following the national guideline, had a poor sensitivity for complicated appendicitis of only 35%, although specificity was as high as 93%. For US, accuracy for complicated appendicitis was higher in children than in adults; sensitivity 41.2% vs. 26.4% and specificity 94.6% vs. 93.4%, respectively, p = 0.003. For relevant subgroups such as age, sex and BMI, no other differences in the discriminatory performance were found. Conclusion: A diagnostic workup with stepwise imaging, using a conditional CT or MRI strategy, poorly discriminates between complicated and uncomplicated appendicitis in daily practice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1385-1391
Number of pages7
JournalInternational journal of colorectal disease
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • Complicated appendicitis
  • Diagnostic accuracy
  • Imaging
  • Uncomplicated appendicitis

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