Appendiceal mucocele

Dr Daniel J Bell and Radswiki et al.

Appendiceal mucoceles occur when there is an abnormal accumulation of mucin causing abnormal distention of the vermiform appendix due to various neoplastic or non-neoplastic causes.

The reported prevalence at appendectomy is 0.2-0.3%. They are thought to typically present in middle-aged individuals, particularly considering the epidemiology of the mucinous neoplasms. Though carcinoid tumour is the most common primary appendiceal neoplasm in surgical pathology series, mucoceles due to neoplasms are the most common appendiceal tumours detected on imaging 7.

The term mucocele is simply a macroscopic description of an appendix that is grossly distended by mucus 7,12. They may be caused by either benign or malignant lesions, categorised into four histologic types:

  • myxoglobulosis: a rare mucocele variant seen with multiple small intraluminal globules which can calcify and produce 1-10 mm mobile calcifications

It can be characterised by a right iliac fossa mass with peripheral calcifications 12

If a contrast examination is performed, there is usually non-filling or partial-filling of the appendix. Where there is a large mucocele, the associated mass effect can cause the indentation or lateral displacement of the caecum.

Typically cystic mass with variable internal echogenicity 8. The presence of an "onion sign" (sonographic layering within a cystic mass) is considered a highly suggestive feature 2,6. Acoustic shadowing may be present due to the mural calcifications 12

They are typically seen as a well-circumscribed, low-attenuation, spherical or tubular mass contiguous with the base of the caecum.  

  • curvilinear mural calcification suggests the diagnosis but is seen in less than 50% of cases 
  • intraluminal bubbles of gas or a gas-fluid level within a mucocele indicates the presence of superinfection, which can occur in both benign and malignant mucoceles
  • mural nodularity and irregular wall thickening are suggestive of a malignant process 12

When identifying a mucocele on CT, a search for extraluminal mucin is mandatory, which are low attenuation deposits commonly seen in certain locations 12:

  • periappendiceal space 
  • peritoneal cavity
  • at the surface of abdominal viscera, including ovaries and bowel

Seen as a rounded right iliac fossa mass and the typical signal characteristics include:

  • T1: depending on the mucin concentration, the signal may be variable, from hypointense to isointense 9
  • T2: hyperintense

Treatment is usually surgical.

Differentiating benign (non-neoplastic mucocele and mucinous cystadenoma) and malignant (mucinous cystadenocarcinoma) appendiceal lesions can be difficult. Wang et al. 10 found a statistically significant difference in wall irregularity and soft-tissue thickening between malignant and benign cases.

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Article information

rID: 12273
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Appendicular mucocoele
  • Appendicular mucocele
  • Appendicocoele
  • Appendicocele
  • Appendiceal mucocele
  • Mucocoele of appendix
  • Mucocele of appendix
  • Mucocele of the appendix
  • Appendiceal mucocoeles
  • Appendiceal mucoceles
  • Mucocele of the appendix

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Cases and figures

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    Case 1: intra-operative photograph
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    Case 4: with onion sign - presumed mucocele
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    Case 7: due to adjacent caecal tumour
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