Beyond acute appendicitis: Imaging and pathologic spectrum of appendiceal pathology

Kara Gaetke-Udager, Katherine E. Maturen, Suntrea G. Hammer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


While acute appendicitis is a common and important clinical problem, a variety of other disease processes can affect the appendix. Simple and perforated appendicitis, tip appendicitis, and stump appendicitis share a common clinical presentation including anorexia, right lower quadrant pain, and fever. By imaging, most cases of acute appendicitis exhibit luminal dilation, wall thickening, and periappendiceal inflammatory stranding. In tip appendicitis, these changes are isolated to the distal appendix, often with an obstructing appendicolith. Perforated appendicitis can exhibit mural discontinuity, periappendiceal abscess, and/or extraluminal appendicoliths. After appendectomy, the appendiceal remnant or "stump" can become inflamed, often necessitating repeat surgery. Inflammatory bowel disease can involve the terminal ileum, secondarily involving the appendix, or may primarily involve the appendix. Patient symptoms can be chronic in such cases, and mucosal hyperenhancement is a pronounced imaging feature. In asymptomatic patients without appendiceal inflammation, the appendix can be dilated by intraluminal material such as inspissated succus in cystic fibrosis or mucus from benign appendiceal mucocele. Finally, neoplasms such as typical appendiceal carcinoid tumor and mucinous adenocarcinoma can involve the appendix. Carcinoids are often small and incidentally discovered at pathologic examination, while malignant mucinous adenocarcinoma tends to present with advanced disease including pseudomyxoma peritonei. Cecal cancers can also obstruct the appendiceal lumen and cause acute appendicitis; an astute radiologist can recognize this prospectively and facilitate definitive resection (right hemicolectomy) at the time of surgery. Attention to mural features, cecal configuration, and periappendiceal inflammation is essential to the correct prospective diagnosis of complicated appendicitis and less common appendiceal pathologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)535-542
Number of pages8
JournalEmergency Radiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014


  • Appendiceal pathologies
  • Appendix
  • Computed tomography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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