Prognostic significance of superficial fissuring ulceration in patients with severe "indeterminate" colitis

Am J Surg Pathol. 2006 Feb;30(2):165-70. doi: 10.1097/


Some colectomy specimens from patients with severe colitis contain superficial fissuring-type ulcers but do not have any other features of Crohn's disease (CD). This finding may cause difficulty with regard to distinguishing ulcerative colitis (UC) from CD and, thus, lead to a diagnosis of "indeterminate" colitis. The aim of this study was to evaluate the clinical and pathologic features, and outcome, of a cohort of patients with colitis and superficial fissuring ulcers, but without any other features that may suggest a diagnosis of CD. We retrospectively identified 21 patients (male-to-female ratio, 10/11; mean age, 38 years) with severe chronic active colitis, all of whom had at least one (range, 1-3) superficial fissuring ulcer in their colectomy specimens (but without any other features of CD), as well as a control group of 18 patients (male-to-female ratio, 10/8; mean age, 41 years) with equally severe disease, but without fissuring ulcers. Both groups were evaluated for a variety of clinical and pathologic features, such as clinical presentation, degree, extent, and duration of colitis, and follow-up information, such as the development of pouchitis, pouch fistulae, and any other features of CD. Overall, 81% of the study patients presented clinically with fulminant colitis and underwent an emergent or urgent colectomy, compared with only 41% of the control patients (P = 0.02). Nine (43%) study patients had active serositis in their colectomy specimens, whereas only 1 (6%) control patient had this finding (P = 0.002). However, no significant differences were noted in either the extent or severity of disease or the presence of active ("backwash") ileitis, between the study and control groups. Upon follow-up (mean, 42 months; range, 4-121 months), the study patients with superficial fissuring ulcers developed pouchitis significantly more often (68% vs. 20%, P = 0.007) than the control group following an ileal pouch-anal anastomosis (IPAA) procedure. One patient from each group developed an anal fissure and another from each group developed an anastomotic stricture. In addition, 1 study patient developed a pouch-cutaneous fistula, and 1 control patient developed an enterocutaneous fistula to a loop ileostomy. Finally, 1 control patient ultimately had her pouch excised because of recurrent intractable pouchitis. However, none of the other study or control patients developed any clinical or pathologic manifestations of CD. We conclude that superficial fissuring ulcers may occur in patients with severe chronic active UC, particularly those who present with fulminant disease. Affected individuals should not be considered to have CD or "indeterminate" colitis and should not be denied an IPAA procedure. Nevertheless, the presence of superficial fissuring-type ulcers in patients with severe chronic active UC denotes a subgroup with a higher risk of pouchitis following surgical resection.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anastomosis, Surgical / adverse effects
  • Colectomy
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / pathology*
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / surgery
  • Crohn Disease / pathology*
  • Crohn Disease / surgery
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Fistula / pathology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pouchitis / etiology
  • Prognosis
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Ulcer / pathology*