Mesenteric Adenitis: CT Diagnosis of Primary Versus Secondary Causes

Michael Macari ; John Hines ; Emil Balthazar ; Alec Megibow

OBJECTIVE: Our objective was to determine the clinical significance of mesenteric adentitis when detected on CT.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Mesenteric adenitis was considered present if a cluster of three or more lymph nodes measuring 5 mm or greater each was present in the right lower quadrant mesentery. If no other abnormality was detected on CT, then mesenteric adenitis was considered primary. If a specific inflammatory process was detected in addition to the lymphadenopathy, then mesenteric adenitis was considered secondary. Patients with a known neoplasm or HIV infection were excluded. Three separate groups of patients were examined for the presence and cause of mesenteric adenitis. Group 1 consisted of 60 consecutive patients prospectively identified with mesenteric adenitis on CT examinations. Group 2 consisted of 60 consecutive patients undergoing abdominal and pelvic CT for evaluation of blunt or penetrating abdominal trauma. Group 3 consisted of 60 consecutive patients undergoing abdominal and pelvic CT with acute abdominal symptoms. In all patients, the indication for imaging was documented, and the size of the largest lymph node, when present, was measured. In patients with mesenteric adenitis, the CT findings, clinical history, and clinical or surgical follow-up were subsequently evaluated to determine the cause of mesenteric adenitis.

RESULTS: In the 60 patients prospectively identified with CT findings of mesenteric adenitis (group 1), 18 (30%) of 60 had primary mesenteric adenitis. The remaining 42 patients (70%) had an associated inflammatory condition that was established on CT as the likely cause of mesenteric adenitis. Mesenteric adenitis was present in none (0%) of the 60 patients in group 2 and in five (8.3%) of 60 patients in group 3.

CONCLUSION: The incidence of mesenteric adenitis in patients with and those without abdominal pain is low. When evidence of mesenteric adenitis is present on CT examinations, usually a specific diagnosis can be established as its cause.