The importance of rectal contrast in CT assessment to detect anastomotic leakage after colorectal surgery

Carla Christine Maria Marres, Esmee W. M. Engelmann, Chistianne J. Buskens, Hester Eline Haak, Willem A. Bemelman, Anthony Willem Hendrik van de Ven

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Aim: Computed tomography (CT) is currently the diagnostic tool most often used to detect anastomotic leakage (AL) after colorectal surgery. The aim of this study was to investigate the value of rectal contrast. Method: All patients who underwent colorectal surgery with a primary anastomosis between 2009 and 2018 were identified from a prospectively maintained database. Patients who underwent postoperative CT scanning in suspicion of AL were included. The clinical and radiological outcomes of patients with and without rectal contrast were compared. Results: A total of 1183 patient records were reviewed; 225 patients underwent CT-abdomen in suspicion of AL. Of these patients, 175 (77.8%) received rectal contrast. Sensitivity and specificity in this group were 78% and 94%, respectively. The positive predictive value (PPV) was 0.78 and the negative predictive value (NPV) was 0.94. In the group without rectal contrast (n = 50), sensitivity was 47%, specificity 88%, PPV 0.66 and NPV 0.76. In patients who received rectal contrast, contrast reached the anastomosis in 81.7% compared with 26.0% in patients who were given only oral contrast (p < 0.001). The sensitivity increased to 93% in the group of patients with contrast at the anastomosis, the specificity to 97%, the PPV to 0.88 and the NPV to 0.98. No adverse events were observed after the use of rectal contrast. Conclusion: The use of rectal contrast led to a significant increase in the predictive value of CT scanning for AL, especially when it reached the anastomosis. This suggests that rectal contrast is a safe and useful adjunct to CT-abdomen in the detection of AL.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2466-2471
Number of pages6
JournalColorectal disease
Issue number9
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


  • laparoscopy
  • radiology
  • surgery

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