Objective To appraise the literature on the diagnosis of acute colonic diverticulitis by ultrasound (US), computed tomography (CT), barium enema (BE) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Method The databases of Pub Med, the Cochrane Library and EMBASE were searched for articles on the diagnosis of diverticulitis published up to November 2005. Studies where US, CT, BE, or MRI were compared with a reference standard on consecutive or randomly selected patients were included. Three examiners independently read the articles according to a prespecified protocol. In case of disagreement consensus was sought. The level of evidence of each article was classified according to the criteria of the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine (CEBM), Oxford, UK.
Results Forty-nine articles relevant to the subject were found and read in full. Twenty-nine of these were excluded. Among the remaining 20 articles, only one study, evaluating both US and CT reached level of evidence 1b according to the CEBM criteria. Two US studies and one MRI study reached level 2b. The remaining studies were level 4.
Conclusion The best evidence for diagnosis of diverticulitis in the literature is on US. Only one small study of good quality was found for CT and for MRI-colonoscopy.