Bowel ultrasound predicts the clinical course of Crohn’s disease for up to 1 year, according to results of a prospective trial involving 225 patients.
After additional confirmation in larger studies, ultrasound could serve as a noninvasive alternative to colonoscopy for monitoring and predicting disease course, reported lead author Mariangela Allocca, MD, PhD, of Humanitas University, Milan, and colleagues.
“Frequent colonoscopies are expensive, invasive, and not well tolerated by patients, thus noninvasive tools for assessment and monitoring are strongly needed,” the investigators wrote in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. “Bowel ultrasound accurately detects inflammatory bowel disease activity, extent, and complications, particularly in Crohn’s disease. Considering its low cost, minimal invasiveness ... and easy repeatability, bowel ultrasound may be a simple, readily available tool for assessing and monitoring Crohn’s disease.”
To test this hypothesis, Dr. Allocca and colleagues enrolled 225 consecutive patients with ileal and/or colonic Crohn’s disease diagnosed for at least 6 months and managed at a tertiary hospital in Italy. All patients underwent both colonoscopy and bowel ultrasound with no more than 3 months between each procedure.
Colonoscopy results were characterized by the Simplified Endoscopic Score for Crohn’s disease (SES-CD), whereas ultrasound was scored using a several parameters, including bowel wall pattern, bowel thickness, bowel wall flow, presence of complications (abscess, fistula, stricture), and characteristics of mesenteric lymph nodes and tissue. Ultrasound scores were considered high if they exceeded a cut-off of 3.52, which was determined by a receiver operating characteristic curve analysis.
Participants were followed for 12 months after baseline ultrasound. The primary objective was to determine the relationship between baseline ultrasound findings and negative disease course, defined by steroid usage, need for surgery, need for hospitalization, and/or change in therapy. The secondary objective was to understand the relationship between ultrasound findings and endoscopy activity.
Multivariable analysis revealed that ultrasound scores greater than 3.52 predicted a negative clinical disease course for up to one year (odds ratio, 6.97; 95% confidence interval, 2.87-16.93; P < .001), as did the presence of at least one disease complication at baseline (OR, 3.90; 95% CI, 1.21-12.53; P = 0.21). A worse clinical course at one-year was also predicted by a baseline fecal calprotectin value of at least 250 mcg/g (OR, 5.43; 95% CI, 2.25-13.11; P < .001) and male sex (OR, 2.60; 95% CI, 1.12-6.02; P = .025).
Investigators then assessed individual disease outcomes at 12 months and baseline results. For example, high ultrasound score and calprotectin at baseline each predicted the need for treatment escalation. In comparison, disease behavior (inflammatory, stricturing, penetrating) and C reactive protein predicted need for corticosteroids. The only significant predictor of hospitalization a year later was CRP.
“[B]owel ultrasound is able to predict disease course in Crohn’s disease patients,” they wrote. “It may identify patients at high risk of a negative course to adopt effective strategies to prevent any disease progression. Our data need to be conﬁrmed and validated in further large studies.”
The investigators disclosed relationships with Janssen, AbbVie, Mundipharma, and others.