AIM: To determine the diagnostic yield and clinical value of plain film of the abdomen (PFA) in Crohn's disease (CD) patients and to determine whether performance of PFA yields definitive diagnostic information or whether additional imaging examinations are required.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: One hundred and seventy-seven CD patients underwent 643 PFAs during the period September 1992 to August 2008. Two radiologists blinded to the clinical details independently evaluated individual PFAs and/or their reports for abnormal findings using the following criteria: normal, small bowel (SB) findings; colonic findings, acute CD complications, extra-colonic findings; global assessment/impression. The results of additional imaging studies performed within 5 days of PFA were recorded and findings were analysed.
RESULTS: A mean of 3.6 (range 1-22) PFAs was performed per patient during the study period. Almost 70% of films were normal (n = 449). SB abnormalities were detected in 21.8% (n = 140) PFAs; most commonly dilated loops (18.8%, n = 121) and mucosal oedema (5%, n = 32). Colonic abnormalities were present in 11.4% (n = 73); most commonly mucosal oedema (7.5%, n = 48) and dilated loops (5%, n = 32). Four cases of pneumoperitoneum were detected. There was no case of toxic megacolon. There was one case in which intra-abdominal abscess/collection was suspected and two cases of obstruction/ileus. Extracolonic findings (renal calculi, sacro-iliitis, etc.) were identified in 7.5% (n = 48). PFAs were followed by additional abdominal imaging within 5 days of PFA in 273/643 (42.5%) of cases.
CONCLUSION: Despite the high rates of utilization of PFA in CD patients, there is a low incidence of abnormal findings (32.5%). Many of the findings are non-specific and clinically irrelevant and PFA is frequently followed by additional abdominal imaging examinations. (C) 2012 The Royal College of Radiologists. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.