Towards an evidence-based management of right iliac fossa pain in the over 50-year-old patient

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION

Right iliac fossa pain is a common presenting complaint to general surgery. The differential diagnosis is wide, particularly in the elderly. Computed tomography (CT) is often used in the ‘older’ population, as they have a higher prevalence of acute colonic diverticulitis and colonic neoplasia, both of which should be identified prior to surgery. There is, however, no published evidence to support this practice.

METHODS

We retrospectively reviewed the records of all patients aged over 50 years who presented with right iliac fossa (RIF) pain to a district general hospital. We determined whether tenderness was predominantly right- or left-sided and whether systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS) was present on admission. The use of imaging modalities, their results and, if performed, operative findings were recorded.

RESULTS

Of 3160 patients identified, 89 met the inclusion criteria. Diagnoses included appendicitis (27%), neoplasia (15%), non-specific abdominal pain (15%) and acute colonic diverticulitis (10%). CT was performed in 82% of patients, with a sensitivity of 97% based on operative findings. Six patients underwent surgery without a scan, two of whom required a change in the planned procedure due to unexpected findings.

CONCLUSIONS

Unless contraindicated, CT scanning should be mandatory in patients aged over 50 years presenting with signs of peritonism in the RIF or lower abdomen.

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