Bowel ultrasound in Crohn's disease

Best Pract Res Clin Gastroenterol. 2006 Feb;20(1):93-112. doi: 10.1016/j.bpg.2005.09.001.


Most published studies have found bowel ultrasound to be a useful tool in the management of Crohn's disease. Indeed, it has been successfully used as the imaging technique of choice in screening patients with clinically suspected Crohn's disease. In these patients, bowel ultrasound, which is well accepted by patients, non-invasive and of low cost, may be the first diagnostic tool employed for young patients and can be used in the preliminary diagnostic work-up prior to further invasive tests. The most important application of bowel ultrasound is, however, in the follow-up of patients already diagnosed with Crohn's disease, in whom it may be useful to assess the site and extent of the lesions and to ensure the early detection of intra-abdominal complications, particularly abscesses and strictures. In this regard, improving the ultrasound assessment of intramural blood flow by means of colour power-Doppler ultrasonography and intravenous contrast agents may help to differentiate fibrotic and inflammatory strictures, and to discriminate inflammatory masses from intra-abdominal abscesses. Despite several attempts to correlate ultrasound findings with clinical and biochemical activity, there are as yet no convincing data on the usefulness of ultrasound in assessing the activity of Crohn's disease. In contrast, preliminary results are in agreement regarding the usefulness of ultrasound in the assessment of postoperative recurrence and in monitoring the outcome of the disease following surgery. In fact, the persistence of a thickened bowel wall or increased high bowel wall thickening at ultrasound following surgery has been identified as an index of early surgical recurrence. How these data may be usefully employed in the management of individuals with Crohn's disease needs to be investigated in further studies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Crohn Disease / diagnostic imaging*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Color