UMEM Educational Pearls

Does IV contrast help to make the diagnosis in ED abdominal pain patients undergoing CT scan? The authors of this study tried to answer that question. This study was a retrospective diagnostic accuracy study looking at contrast enhanced vs. non-enhanced images in 201 consecutive ED patients. The study demographics were:

“There were 201 included patients (female, 108; male, 93) with a mean age of 50.1 (SD, 20.9) years and mean BMI of 25.5 (SD, 5.4).”


The study found: “Unenhanced CT was approximately 30% less accurate than contrast-enhanced CT for evaluating abdominal pain in the ED.”


This study is limited by the small size, the overwhelming female to male inclusion, the reliance on radiology reading as the gold standard of pathology, and the retrospective nature. It does, however, show that there is a need for further study and at this time giving IV contrast has limited down side and potentially improves diagnostic accuracy of abdominal CT scans.


Shaish H, Ream J, Huang C, et al. Diagnostic Accuracy of Unenhanced Computed Tomography for Evaluation of Acute Abdominal Pain in the Emergency Department. JAMA Surg. Published online May 03, 2023. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2023.1112