Unenhanced helicat CT of ureterolithiasis: Values of the tissue rim sign

Akira Kawashima, Carl M. Sandler, Illya C. Boridy, Naoki Takahashi, George S. Benson, Stanford M. Goldman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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OBJECTIVE. The tissue rim sign-a rim or halo of sot-tissue attenuation seen around the circumference of an intraureteral calculus on unenhanced axial CT-has been described as useful in differentiating ureteral calculi from extraurinary abdominal or pelvic calcifications. The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of the tissue rim sign in patients with ureterolithiasis and extraurinary calcifications and to determine the relationship between the tissue rim sign, the size of a calculus, and the degree of urinary obstruction. MATERIALS AND METHODS. Unenhanced helical CT studies followed by excretory urography were obtained in 59 patients with suspected acute ureterolithiasis. Each calcification along the expected course of the seen on axial CT scans was categorized as a ureteral calculus or as an extraurinary calcification. Each categorization was based on CT, urographic, and clinical findings and the presence or absence of a tissue rim sign. When the outer wall of the ureter could not be seen because there was no clear fat plane at the level of the calcification on CT, the sign was categorized as 'indeterminate.' The size of the calculus was measured on CT, and the degree of urinary obstruction was estimated on the basis of the urograms. RESULTS. Thirty-two patients each had a single ureteral calculus. Of these patients, CT revealed a positive tissue rim sign in 16 patients (50%), was negative in five patients (16%), and was indeterminate in 11 patients (34%). In addition, was saw 57 extraurinary, calcifications in 18 patients (11 patients with ureteral calculi and seven patients without ureteral calculi). None of the 57 extraurinary calcifications was associated with a positive tissue rim sign. The tissue rim sign was negative in 39 (68%) of the 57 extraurinary calcifications and indeterminate in the remaining 18(32%). Ureteral calculi with a negative tissue rim sign were larger that ureteral calculi with a positive tissue rim sign (p<.01). A high degree of obstruction was present in four or five patients with ureteral calculi for which CT showed a negative tissue rim sign. Conversely, six of 16 patients in whom CT revealed a positive tissue rim sign also had a high degree of obstruction. Therefore, no clear relationship was found between the degree of obstruction and the presence of a positive rim sign. CONCLUSION. A positive tissue rim sign is specific for the diagnosis of ureterolithiasis. However, a negative tissue rim sign does not preclude such a diagnosis. The presence or absence of this tissue rim sign correlates with the size of a calculus but not with the degree of urinary obstruction. When CT reveals an indeterminate tissue sign, careful inspection for other CT findings, such as ipsilateral ureteral dilatation, perinephric edema, dilatation of the intrarenal collecting system, and swelling, is necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)997-1000
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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