The Abdominal X-Ray For: Nottingham SCRUBS 26th August 2006 By: Ian Bickle, North Trent Radiology Training Scheme.
Contents: Normal Anatomy Types of Projection Assessing the Film Technical Qualities Gas containing structures Solid Organs Bones Soft Tissues Presenting the film
Aims: To identify and interpret significant abnormalities on an abdominal x-ray (AXR), and understand how this investigation relates to the overall management of the patient. Describe the radiological appearances of common medical and surgical conditions on AXR.
The Abdominal X-Ray: The abdominal x-ray (AXR) has a much more limited value in diagnosis than a chest x-ray. The radiation exposure of an AXR compared to a CXR is also considerably higher. One AXR is equivalent to 35 CXRs. The AXR is of most use in the patient with an acute abdomen. It may guide further imaging (Other Imaging Modalities Lecture) As with a CXR, an appreciation of normal structures is vital.
Abdominal X-Ray Projections: Supine 99% Erect Lateral decubitus. Knowledge of the anatomy of the abdomen allows localization of the abnormalities observed on the AXR.
Abdominal X-Rays: AXR-1 AXR-2
Abdominal X-Rays: AXR-3 AXR-4
The initial assessment of an AXR is the same as for a CXR: Film Specifics and Technical Factors: Film Specifics: Name of Patient Age & Date of Birth Location of Patient Date Taken Film Number (if applicable) • Film Technical factors: • Type of projection (Supine is standard) • Markings of any special techniques used
Assess the Film in Detail: • ‘BLACK BITS’ • Intra-luminal gas can be normal. • Extra-luminal gas is abnormal. • However, intra-luminal gas can be abnormal if it is in the wrong place or if too much is seen. A simple guide to interpretation is shown below. Working through these headings one covers, ‘dark bits’, ‘white bits’, ‘grey bits’ and ‘bright white bits’ in turn.
Assess the Film in Detail: ‘BLACK BITS’ (Continued) - Intra-luminal gas: The maximum normal diameter of the large bowel is 55mm. Small bowel should be no more than 35mm in diameter. The natural presence of gas within the bowel allows assessment of caliber - although the amount varies between individuals. The caecum is not said to be dilated unless wider than 80mm. Large and small bowel may be distinguished by looking at bowel wall markings, as shown in the box below.
Assess the Film in Detail: Intra-luminal gas (continued): It is usual to see small volumes of gas throughout the GI tract and the absence in one region may in itself represent pathology. For example, if gas is seen to the level of the splenic flexure and nothing is seen beyond this, a site of the obstruction at this site – a ‘cut off’ point is noted. The haustra of the large bowel extend only a third of the way across the bowel from each side, whereas the valvulae conniventes of the small bowel tranverse the complete distance.
Assess the Film in Detail: Intra-luminal Gas: Low Small Bowel Obstruction Small Bowel obstruction.
Assess the Film in Detail: If bowel obstruction is observed try to look for the cause. For example a hernia as the cause of obstruction. Hernia.
Assess the Film in Detail: Extra-luminal Gas: When an bowel is obstructed, or any other gas containing structure perforates, its contained gas becomes extra-luminal. Extra-luminal gas is never normal, but may be seen following intra-abdominal surgery or endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography (ERCP). Extra-luminal gas seen on erect CXR.
Assess the Film in Detail: Causes of Extra-luminal gas: Post Abdominal Surgery/ERCP Perforation of viscus (eg. bowel, stomach) Gallstone ileus Cholangitis (infection with gas forming organisms) Abscess An erect CXR (not AXR) is the best projection to diagnose a pneumoperitoneum (gas in the peritoneal cavity).
Assess the Film in Detail: ‘WHITE BITS’ = Calcification Calcified structures (‘WHITE BITS’) are often seen on AXR. The main question is – does its presence have any important implications. Calcification can be broadly divided into 3 types: (1) Calcium that is an abnormal structure - eg. gallstones and renal calculi (2) Calcium that is within a normal structure, but represents pathology - eg. nephrocalcinosis, (3) Calcium that is within a normal structure, but is harmless - eg. lymph node calcification. Bones are normal ‘white’ structures. On the AXR they comprise mainly those of the thoraco-lumbar spine and pelvis. Findings are largely incidental as direct bone pathology would be investigated with specific views.
Assess the Film in Detail: Pancreatic Calcification Gallstones
Assess the Film in Detail: ‘GREY BITS’ = Soft Tissues Soft tissues represent most of the contents of the abdomen and feature heavily in the AXR. However, these tissues are poorly seen when compared to other imaging techniques such as ultrasound or CT. The kidneys, spleen, liver and bladder (if filled) can be seen in addition to psoas muscle shadows and abdominal fat. Rarely would action be taken on the basis of this imaging alone.
Assess the Film in Detail: Splenomegaly
Assess the Film in Detail: ‘BRIGHT WHITE BITS’ = Foreign Bodies Foreign Bodies represent an interesting final observation. Objects that may be seen include ingested and rectal foreign bodies, items in the path of the x-ray beam such as belt buckles, dress buttons and jewelry. Other objects may have been deliberately placed for example an aortic stent, an inferior vena cava filter or a suprapubic urinary catheter. Sterilization clips and an intra-uterine device are common findings in women.
Assess the Film in Detail: Sterilisation and Surgical Clips Foreign body per rectum
Case 1: This 67 year-old women presented to the surgical ward with a distended abdomen and vomiting. Present this x-ray Give a diagnosis and potential causes
Case 1: Answer Radiology Report: Plain abdominal radiograph. Multiple dilated loops of small bowel within the central abdomen. Gas is not seen in the large bowel. No evidence of hernia or gallstone to suggest potential cause of the dilated loops. These findings are in keep with a low small bowel obstruction. I would like to know if the patient has a history of abdominal surgery as the commonest cause is surgical admissions. • The three commonest causes of small bowel obstruction are: • Surgical adhesions • Herniae • Intraluminal mass eg, small bowel lymphoma or gallstone (in gallstone ileus)
Case 2: This 71 year-old gentleman visits his GP complaining of blood in his urine. He has had a number of UTI’s in recent years. Present this x-ray Give a diagnosis and potential causes
Case 2: Answer Radiology Report: Plain abdominal radiograph. Two rounded radio-opacities measuring 4cm within the pelvis. Both opacities are smooth in outline, laminated in nature, have the same density as bone and project over the bladder. No other renal tract calcification. Does the patient have a history of neurogenic bladder? Given the size of these stones and history of UTI’s these are bladder calculi. • Bladder calculi are more common in those with a history of: • •UTI’s • •A neurogenic bladder • •Bladder diverticulum
Case 3: This patient was admitted with poor renal function. Present this x-ray Give a diagnosis and potential causes
Case 3: Answer Radiology Report: Plain abdominal radiograph Multiple areas of punctuate calcification project over the renal outlines bilaterally. The calcification is within the medulla of the renal parenchyma. The bones are normal in appearance. These findings are consistent with nephrocalcinosis • Causes of Nephrocalcinosis include: • •Hyperparathyroidism • •Medullary sponge kidney
There will be the opportunity during the rest of the day for EVERYONE to present at least one AXR during the small group sessions.