Objective: Patients referred for chronic diarrhea frequently undergo endoscopic evaluation. There are limited data on the role for colonoscopy with biopsy and ileoscopy for patients with chronic diarrhea.
Methods: We reviewed the charts of 228 patients with chronic diarrhea evaluated by colonoscopy between November 1995 and March 1998. Chronic diarrhea was defined as loose, frequent bowel movements for a minimum of 4 wk. Patients were excluded if biopsies were not performed in normal colons, if they had undergone previous bowel surgery, a history of inflammatory bowel disease, HIV, or an inadequate colonoscopy.
Results: One hundred sixty-eight patients were included in the analysis, of whom 142 (85%) had ileoscopy. Colonoscopy and biopsy yielded a specific histological diagnosis in 52 (31%) patients. These included Crohn's disease (9), ulcerative colitis (7), lymphocytic colitis (10), collagenous colitis (3), ischemic colitis (3), infectious colitis (6), and miscellaneous diseases (14). Ileoscopy yielded significant findings in 3% of patients (four with Crohn's disease and one with infection).
Conclusions: Colonoscopy and biopsy is useful in the investigation of patients with chronic diarrhea yielding a histological diagnosis in 31% of patients without a previous diagnosis. Ileoscopy complemented colonoscopy findings in a minority of patients with chronic diarrhea and was essential for a diagnosis in only two patients.