Occult colorectal polyps on CT colonography: Implications for surveillance

Robert L. MacCarty, C. Daniel Johnson, Joel G. Fletcher, Lynn A. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. Our purpose was to determine the prevalence of polyps that are invisible on CT colonography (CTC) in a population previously screened for colorectal neoplasms. Differences in the prevalence of occult polyps in various populations might help explain the discordant reported sensitivities for polyp detection in published reports of CTC. SUBJECTS AND METHODS. Seventy-five consecutive patients who had been previously screened for polyps underwent same-day colonoscopy and CTC. Many of the patients had personal histories of previous polypectomies and were undergoing surveillance colonoscopy. The scans were interpreted prospectively by an experienced radiologist. Polyps missed prospectively on CTC were analyzed retrospectively by three experienced radiologists and categorized as perception errors (visible in retrospect), technical errors (e.g., obscured by feces or fluid), or occult (invisible). RESULTS. Thirty polyps 5 mm or larger were found at colonoscopy, 18 of which were missed prospectively on CTC. Of the 18 missed polyps, 12 could not be identified in retrospect, even though they were located in clean, dry, well-distended colonic segments. These were classified as occult. Ten of the 12 occult polyps showed flat morphology on review of colonoscopy video recordings. Of the remaining six missed polyps, two were classified as perception errors, two as technical errors, and two as a combination of technical and perception error. CONCLUSION. In this population, colonographically occult polyps were common and accounted for more detection failures than perception errors and technical errors combined. The high prevalence of occult polyps may be explained by the fact that previous screening may have led to removal of easy-to-see polyps, creating a study population with a higher percentage of hard-to-see polyps.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1380-1383
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2006


  • CT
  • Colonography
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Polyps

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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