Paucicellular and asymptomatic lymphocytic colitis: expanding the clinicopathologic spectrum of lymphocytic colitis

Am J Clin Pathol. 2004 Sep;122(3):405-11. doi: 10.1309/3FBB-CY4T-VUYE-CD55.


We examined clinicopathologic associations and biopsy changes that suggested classic lymphocytic colitis (C-LC) but were less well developed in intensity or distribution in 19 cases, which we termed paucicellular LC (P-LC). We also studied clinicopathologic associations and prevalence of LC in 100 asymptomatic, non-gluten-sensitive adults who underwent screening surveillance colonoscopy for previous adenoma. The control group was 38 randomly selected morphologically C-LC cases. The features of P-LC were foci of mildly increased lamina propria lymphoplasmacytic inflammation and increased surface intraepithelial lymphocytes separated by foci or tissue fragments of normal mucosa. Mean age and rates of female sex, endoscopically normal appearing colon, abdominal pain, watery stools, weight loss, connective tissue diseases, and consistent ingestion of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were similar for P-LC and C-LC patients. Of 100 asymptomatic patients, 26 (26%) had LC and 43 (43%) used NSAIDs daily. Of these 43 patients, 14 (33%) had P-LC or C-LC. Daily NSAID ingestion was associated significantly with LC (P = .024). P-LC patients had clinicopathologic relationships similar to those of C-LC patients, suggesting they should be considered part of the morphologic spectrum of LC. LC in asymptomatic adults might be more common than previously thought and might not be associated with watery diarrhea syndrome.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Colitis / classification
  • Colitis / etiology
  • Colitis / pathology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / pathology
  • Intestinal Polyps / pathology
  • Lymphocytes / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal