Can CT Tell Us If We Need Abdominal Surgery?

Yes it often can.  There are many conditions that a CT can diagnose that will prompt surgery.  CT shows us the inside of the abdomen in detail.  CT allows us to see the anatomy and any associated abnormalities.  After an interpretation of CT is made by a radiologist, surgery may be necessary.

What are some diagnosis we can see on CT?

CT can diagnose abnormalities of the bowel, organs, blood vessels, and lymph nodes.  We can see bleeding from a variety of causes.  We can identify fluid collections.  We can see bowel perforations.  We can identify abscesses or pus collections.  We can see injury from trauma.

Organ abnormalities

Organ abnormalities of all kinds may require surgery.  In the setting of trauma, injury may require life saving surgery to prevent death.  Chronic abnormalities can be identified in organs such as cancer or other growths which will require surgery.  An inflamed organ like the gallbladder will often be removed.


CT can identify abnormalities of the bowel which will require surgery.   A blockage of the bowel will sometimes require surgery.  Bowel which is ischemic or lacking blood flow will often require surgery.  The appendix which arises from the cecum or start of the colon can become inflamed requiring surgery.

Blood vessels

CT of the abdomen can identity abnormalities of the blood vessels which require surgery.  Aneurysms of the aorta are often treated with surgery when they become large.  Sometimes dissections and blockages are also treated with surgery and can be diagnosed on CT.


Abscess collections are pockets of pus.  This can occur throughout the abdomen.  This can occur in the organs or adjacent to them.  Abscesses can occur from a variety of causes such as infection or inflammation.  They need to be treated urgently.  Sometimes this is done with surgery and other times with drainage through a catheter that goes into the skin.


Bleeding may require surgery.  This can occur following trauma, after a growth bleeds or aneurysm ruptures to name some of the causes.   Sometimes this will require surgery to prevent death.  Other times, a specially trained interventional radiology doctor will stop the bleeding by using minimally invasive techniques.

CT of the abdomen often tells us if we need surgery.  Additionally, we often can get an idea for the urgency.  The imaging is used in combination with the clinical information to reach the most appropriate treatment.    A surgeon will use his clinical judgment to determine if surgery is appropriate.  CT has revolutionized medicine allowing us a detailed look inside the body. CT allows doctors to provide a precise diagnosis and treatment.

Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended as, nor should it be considered a substitute for, professional medical advice. Do not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating any medical or health condition. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider.

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