, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 307–314 | Cite as

Computed tomography scan diagnosis of occult groin hernia

  • J. F. W. GarveyEmail author
Original Article



The value of computed tomography (CT) for the diagnosis of clinically occult (hidden) groin hernia was assessed in a series of patients presenting with undiagnosed groin pain.


A total of 158 consecutive patients presenting over a period of 5 years with undiagnosed groin pain or lower abdominal pain and negative or equivocal clinical findings were radiologically assessed with non-contrast CT. The decision to manage operatively or conservatively was then based on a combination of the clinical and CT findings. Outcomes were assessed at 10 years follow-up.


The study cohort comprised 158 patients presenting with groin or lower abdominal pain and/or swelling, and was studied prospectively. Seven of these patients were re-investigated at a later date after developing new pain on either the ipsilateral or contralateral side, giving a total of 165 CT examinations. One-third of cases (54) had clinically occult groin hernias and most of the remaining cases had diagnoses that could be managed non-operatively. Of those who came to surgery, the pre-operative CT diagnosis of hernia had a positive predictive value (PPV) of 92% and a negative predictive value (NPV) of 96% (overall accuracy 94%). Lipoma of the spermatic cord was responsible for three of five false-positive CT results. The concept of sports hernia/groin disruption injury (GDI) was encountered, and this entity is discussed in this paper. In the group of patients without hernia findings on CT, the most common diagnoses were rectus abdominis and/or pyramidalis muscle injury which could be treated by physiotherapy (22%), GDI (16%), post-surgical problems (14%), miscellaneous (20%) and ‘no abnormality’ was identified in 15%. Overall, there were 111 patients with a ‘non-hernia’ CT diagnosis, of which urological, gynaecological, gastrointestinal and neuralgia contributed to the non-musculoskeletal diagnosis.


This prospective non-contrast CT study of patients with undiagnosed chronic groin pain detected the majority of occult hernias requiring surgical intervention. These results suggest that CT can be a useful adjunct to the evaluation of patients presenting with chronic undiagnosed groin pain, but that experienced clinical judgment remains a critical element in the diagnostic pathway.


Inguinal hernia diagnosis CT scan Obscure groin pain Chronic groin pain Sports hernia 



Dr. Michael T.W. Houang of Castlereagh Imaging, Edgecliff, Sydney, for performing the CT scans. Dr. John Read of Castlereagh Imaging, St. Leonards, Sydney, for producing the CT radiographs, reviewing the manuscript and contributing to the discussion. Mrs. Tracey Garvey (B.Appl.Sci.) who managed the data analysis. Dr. James Caristo FRACS, Surgeon, for the surgical assistance. Mr. Reinhold (Ray) Muller, Senior Lecturer (Biostatistics and Epidemiology), School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland, for the assistance in interpreting the findings and advice on quality measures. This research complies with the current laws of the Commonwealth of Australia.

Conflict of interest

There are no author disclosures.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Groin Pain ClinicSydneyAustralia

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