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 Table of Contents 
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 23  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 48-50  

Acute epiploic appendagitis: A rare cause of acute abdomen and a diagnostic dilemma

1 Department of Surgery, King Fahad University Hospital, University of Dammam, Dammam, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
2 Department of Radiology, King Fahad University Hospital, University of Dammam, Dammam, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Date of Web Publication21-Dec-2015

Correspondence Address:
Zeead M Alghamdi
King Fahd University Hospital, P. O. Box 40157, ALKhobar, 31952, Eastern Province
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2230-8229.172234

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Acute epiploic appendagitis is a relatively rare cause of lower abdominal pain that clinically mimics other acute abdomen conditions that require surgery such as acute diverticulitis or appendicitis. Here, we report a case of a 50-year-old lady who presented with an unusual lower abdominal pain. Awareness of such a clinical condition with its characteristic imaging findings is important to avoid costly hospitalization, unnecessary antibiotic courses, and the morbidity and mortality associated with surgical procedures.

Keywords: Abdominal computed tomography scan, abdominal pain, epiploic appendagitis

How to cite this article:
Almuhanna AF, Alghamdi ZM, Alshammari E. Acute epiploic appendagitis: A rare cause of acute abdomen and a diagnostic dilemma. J Fam Community Med 2016;23:48-50

How to cite this URL:
Almuhanna AF, Alghamdi ZM, Alshammari E. Acute epiploic appendagitis: A rare cause of acute abdomen and a diagnostic dilemma. J Fam Community Med [serial online] 2016 [cited 2022 Jan 17];23:48-50. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Epiploic appendagitis is an uncommon clinical condition resulting from torsion and inflammation of an epiploic appendix that lead to localized abdominal pain. Usually, it has a smooth clinical scenario after a correct diagnosis. The vagueness of the clinical presentation usually accounts for the difficulty of diagnosing this pathology. Radiological studies, particularly enhanced abdominal computed tomography (CT) scan, have a valuable role in reaching the right diagnosis and sparing the patient unnecessary hospitalization or surgery in uncomplicated cases.

   Case report Top

A 50-year-old female who is known to have noninsulin dependent diabetes mellitus, hypertension and dyslipidemia presented to the Emergency Department complaining of localized, left the lower abdominal pain of a day's duration. The pain was acute on the onset, constant, and of increasing severity. It was partially relieved by over-the-counter analgesics. She denied fevers, chills, nausea, vomiting, or anorexia or symptoms suggestive of urinary tract infection. She had never had appendicitis or diverticulitis. Her past surgical history was positive only for knee surgery.

During the physical examination, the patient lay comfortably on the bed with slight pain. She was not tachycardic, tachypnic or febrile, and abdominal examination was positive only for localized tenderness in the left lower quadrant. Laboratory result did not show leukocytosis, no neutrophilia or any feature suggestive of severe inflammation or stress.

The patient was referred to the radiology department with a concern for diverticulitis. Contrast-enhanced CT of the abdomen and pelvis showed a well-defined rounded fat density attached to the anti-mesenteric aspect of the distal part of the descending colon measuring 2.8 cm × 1 cm. This feature was suggestive of epiploic appendagitis [Figure 1] and [Figure 2]. The appendix was visualized and appeared normal, and the rest of the study was unremarkable.

The patient was admitted to the surgical ward and started on a liquid diet, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, an antibiotic, and was kept for observation for a couple of days and discharged in good condition. The patient was followed in the outpatient clinic once with the uneventful course.
Figure 1: Axial computer tomography scan with double-contrast image of the abdomen showing fat-density ovoid structure adjacent to the descending colon, measuring 2.8 cm × 1 cm in diameter with thin high-density rim (1-3 mm thick) associated with surrounding inflammatory fat stranding, and thickening of the adjacent peritoneum. Presence of central hyperdense dot representing the thrombosed vascular pedicle

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Figure 2: Coronal computer tomography scan cut showing the same findings

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   Discussion Top

Epiploic appendagitis is a rare clinical entity that can be the cause of an acute abdomen and may be easily misdiagnosed as acute appendicitis or diverticulitis. The condition can occur at any age, and there is a slight propensity for males over females. [1]

Epiploic appendagitis merely denotes inflammation of one or more of the appendices epiploicae. These are small, serosa-covered fat pads measuring from 0.5 cm to 5 cm long and 1-2 cm wide attached to the outer surface of the colonic wall. There are approximately 100 appendages scattered throughout the peritoneal cavity [2],[3] distributed along the large bowel with variable frequency: Rectosigmoid junction 57%, ileocecal region 26%, ascending colon 9%, transverse colon 6%, descending colon 2%. [4],[5],[6]

The pathogenesis is thought to be due to torsion of large and pedunculated appendix epiploicae, or spontaneous thrombosis of the venous outflow, resulting in ischemia, and necrosis. [4]

The pain is usually localized to the left or right lower abdominal quadrant, mimicking diverticulitis or appendicitis. The abdominal pain is often rapid in onset and exacerbated by movement. In one study, all the patients presented with abdominal pain within hours up to 1-week, and the majority did not have any associated symptoms such as fever, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation. [7] Localized abdominal tenderness and guarding are usually found on physical examination. The leukocyte count can be normal or slightly elevated. [7],[8]

Given the nonspecific presentation and the lack of distinctive clinical features, the diagnosis of epiploic appendagitis without imaging can be challenging. Additional imaging such abdominal ultrasound or CT is usually necessary to establish the diagnosis. Historically, the diagnosis of epiploic appendagitis was primarily surgical, but advances in radiological techniques made possible the first report of epiploic appendagitis on CT scan in 1986. [9] Pathognomonic CT findings are a 1-4 cm oval-shaped fat density lesion surrounded by inflammatory changes. [10] Thickening of the parietal peritoneum wall can sometimes be observed. These radiographic changes can last for weeks after the initial diagnosis. [11]

Epiploic appendagitis is generally a self-limiting disease, with patients spontaneously recovering within 7-30 days. [2] Conservative management with oral anti-inflammatory medication is currently considered the standard management once an accurate radiological diagnosis has been established. [2] Antibiotics or surgical treatments are rarely warranted and surgical intervention (laparotomy or laparoscopic) is kept for complications such as inflammation-induced adhesions, secondary abscess, or intestinal occlusions [1],[12] or doubtful cases [2] or recurrence of symptoms with the conservative management. [1]

   Conclusion Top

Our aim was to increase clinical awareness by presenting a rare etiology of localized abdominal pain which can easily mimic the clinical presentation of other common causes of the acute abdomen such as acute appendicitis and diverticulitis. It was also to emphasis the importance of using the CT scan to diagnose vague clinical presentation, which would eventually help to avoid unnecessary surgery and hospitalization.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Sand M, Gelos M, Bechara FG, Sand D, Wiese TH, Steinstraesser L, et al. Epiploic appendagitis - Clinical characteristics of an uncommon surgical diagnosis. BMC Surg 2007;7:11.  Back to cited text no. 1
Ozdemir S, Gulpinar K, Leventoglu S, Uslu HY, Turkoz E, Ozcay N, et al. Torsion of the primary epiploic appendagitis: A case series and review of the literature. Am J Surg 2010;199:453-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
Sangha S, Soto JA, Becker JM, Farraye FA. Primary epiploic appendagitis: An underappreciated diagnosis. A case series and review of the literature. Dig Dis Sci 2004;49:347-50.  Back to cited text no. 3
Boardman J, Kaplan KJ, Hollcraft C, Bui-Mansfield LT. Radiologic-pathologic conference of Keller Army Community Hospital at West Point, the United States Military Academy: Torsion of the epiploic appendage. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2003;180:748.  Back to cited text no. 4
Thomas JH, Rosato FE, Patterson LT. Epiploic appendagitis. Surg Gynecol Obstet 1974;138:23-5.  Back to cited text no. 5
Rioux M, Langis P. Primary epiploic appendagitis: Clinical, US, and CT findings in 14 cases. Radiology 1994;191:523-6.  Back to cited text no. 6
Choi YU, Choi PW, Park YH, Kim JI, Heo TG, Park JH, et al. Clinical characteristics of primary epiploic appendagitis. J Korean Soc Coloproctol 2011;27:114-21.  Back to cited text no. 7
Vinson DR. Epiploic appendagitis: A new diagnosis for the emergency physician. Two case reports and a review. J Emerg Med 1999;17:827-32.  Back to cited text no. 8
Danielson K, Chernin MM, Amberg JR, Goff S, Durham JR. Epiploic appendicitis: CT characteristics. J Comput Assist Tomogr 1986;10:142-3.  Back to cited text no. 9
Almeida AT, Melão L, Viamonte B, Cunha R, Pereira JM. Epiploic appendagitis: An entity frequently unknown to clinicians - Diagnostic imaging, pitfalls, and look-alikes. AJR Am J Roentgenol 2009;193:1243-51.  Back to cited text no. 10
Mollà E, Ripollés T, Martínez MJ, Morote V, Roselló-Sastre E. Primary epiploic appendagitis: US and CT findings. Eur Radiol 1998;8:435-8.  Back to cited text no. 11
Singh AK, Gervais DA, Hahn PF, Sagar P, Mueller PR, Novelline RA. Acute epiploic appendagitis and its mimics. Radiographics 2005;25:1521-34.  Back to cited text no. 12


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

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