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Rev Esp Enferm Dig. 2005 Dec;97(12):877-86.

The value of abdominal ultrasound in the diagnosis of colon cancer.

[Article in English, Spanish]

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Service of Digestive Diseases, Complejo Hospitalario Universitario Xeral-Cíes, Vigo, Pontevedra, Spain.



Colon cancer is one of the main causes of cancer death. Diagnosis requires the examination of the entire large bowel by means of radiological or endoscopic techniques. Many patients suspect of colon cancer are referred for colonoscopy but nevertheless this suspicion is not confirmed after endoscopic examination. The objective of this study is the evaluation of the reliability of abdominal ultrasound in the diagnosis of these tumors.


We selected patients suspect of colon cancer referred to the endoscopy unit for a colonoscopy. An abdominal ultrasound was carried out on all patients prior to the endoscopy. Considering the endoscopic examination as a gold standard, the sensibility, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV) and negative predictive value (NPV) of the ultrasonography were evaluated. Likewise, a series of analytical and clinical parameters were evaluated, in an attempt to establish associated factors of a colon cancer. The statistical analysis was carried out by means of the statistical package SPSS 12.0 for Windows.


145 patients were included in the study (56.6% males) with an average 66.72 years of age (22-89). A cancer was diagnosed in 42 cases (28.9%). In the diagnosis of colon cancer, abdominal ultrasound presents a sensitivity of 79.06%, a specificity of 92.15%, a PPV and a NPV of 80.9% and of 91.2%, respectively. Excluding from the analysis lesions of the rectal ampulla, which cannot be adequately evaluated by means of ultrasound, the figures for sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV increase to 91.8, 92.1, 80.9 and 96.9% respectively. The univariate analysis showed that an age over 65 years and the presence of microcytosis are associated to a greater risk of colon cancer while after multivariate analysis only the presence of microcytosis resulted to be an independent predictive factor of cancer.


Abdominal ultrasound presents high sensitivity, specificity, PPV and NPV in the diagnosis of colon cancer. The combination of an ultrasonography and a rectoscopy permits us to rule out the presence of a colorectal carcinoma. In patients with microcytosis of 65 years and over, if there is strong clinical suspicion, a negative ultrasound may not be sufficient to rule out a colorectal neoplasia.

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