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Impact of intestinal ultrasound on the management of patients with inflammatory bowel disease

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

Impact of intestinal ultrasound on the management of patients with inflammatory bowel disease: how to apply scientific evidence to clinical practice

Mirella Fraquelli, Fabiana Castiglione, Emma Calabrese, Giovanni Maconi

Published Jan 2020, in Digestive and liver disease.


Technological improvements and growing sonographers' expertise boost the role of intestinal ultrasound (IUS) in assessing patients with inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Non-invasiveness, low cost and good reproducibility make IUS attractive. Leveraging on the Authors' long-term field experience, this review focuses on the IUS role in IBD patients' clinical management. For detecting IBD, particularly Crohn's disease, the IUS parameters - above all the evidence of a thickened bowel wall (BWT) - show very good diagnostic accuracy similar to that of MRI or CT scan. The standard IUS parameters are not accurate enough to detect inflammatory activity, but intravenous contrast-enhanced US (CEUS) is highly accurate in ruling active inflammation out. However, its routinely use remains limited in clinical practice and its parameters need standardization. IUS is accurate in detecting IBD main complications: in particular, fistulae and abscesses. As to stenosis the recent introduction of IUS-based elastographic techniques allows to differentiate prevalently inflammatory from highly fibrotic strictures. IUS proves valid also for monitoring IBD patients. In particular, the evidence of transmural healing, defined as BWT normalization, has got an important prognostic meaning, as associated with better long-term clinical outcomes. Post-surgery CD recurrence can be suggested by early IUS assessment.

Keywords: IBD; Inflammatory bowel disease; Intestinal ultrasound.


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