Objective: We examined cases of asymptomatic inflammatory bowel diseases, particularly asymptomatic ulcerative colitis, which were found in apparently healthy Japanese persons who underwent general health screening.
Methods: Patients with positive immunological fecal occult blood test (IFOBT) among approximately 236,000 persons participating in the health screening program at the Aichi Prefectural Center for Health Care for the past 9 yr underwent total colonoscopy. In patients with ulcerative colitis, we investigated the sex and age distributions, extent of lesion, endoscopic activity, incidence rate, and clinical course.
Results: In all, 35 cases of inflammatory bowel disease were detected, and 274 cases of colorectal cancer (not discussed here) were detected in the same population. The 35 cases of inflammatory bowel disease consisted of 19 cases of ulcerative colitis (12 of asymptomatic and minimally symptomatic ulcerative colitis, and seven of symptomatic or with past history of ulcerative colitis); five of intestinal tuberculosis; two of Crohn's disease; two of amebic colitis; and seven of endoscopic colitis. The 12 patients with asymptomatic and minimally symptomatic ulcerative colitis consisted of 11 men and one woman aged 36-63 yr (mean 46.2 yr). We classified these cases into three grades of severity according to endoscopic findings: four cases were mild, eight moderate, and none severe. Of these 12 cases, three were found endoscopically because of positive IFOBT, although barium enema was normal. Anatomic types of colitis cases included three of total colitis, three left-sided colitis, two proctitis, and four right-sided or segmental colitis. In one case, the disease extended proximally during the course of observation.
Conclusions: We found 35 cases of inflammatory bowel disease because of positive IFOBT performed as part of a general health screening. Of these, 19 cases were ulcerative colitis. These included many asymptomatic and minimally symptomatic cases, which could be very important in helping to elucidate the natural history of ulcerative colitis; thus, long-term follow up is necessary.