Contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) in Crohn's disease: technique, image interpretation and clinical applications

Insights Imaging. 2011 Dec;2(6):639-652. doi: 10.1007/s13244-011-0124-1. Epub 2011 Aug 10.


BACKGROUND: Recent meta-analysis has demonstrated no significant differences in diagnostic accuracy among different imaging techniques (US, MRI and CT) in the evaluation of Crohn's disease (CD). High-resolution bowel ultrasound has emerged as an alternative imaging technique for the diagnosis and follow-up of patients with CD, being as accurate as CT and MR for detecting intramural and extramural extension of the disease. B-Mode US can evaluate the localization and length of the affected intestinal segments and allow identification of transmural complications, stenosis and intestinal obstruction. Doppler techniques are tools that visualize and quantify bowel vascularization. Contrast-enhanced ultrasound (CEUS) is a new technique that involves IV administration of an ultrasound contrast agent with real-time examination, providing an accurate depiction of the bowel wall microvascularization and the perienteric tissues. The introduction of imaging quantification techniques enables an objective quantitative measurement of the enhancement. METHOD AND RESULTS: The article reviews the technique, sonographic findings, advantages and limitations, and clinical applications of contrast-enhanced US in the evaluation of Cohn's disease. Current CEUS applications in CD are: CD activity assessment, evaluation of inflammatory masses, distinguishing phlegmons from abscesses, characterization of stenosis by differentiating fibrosis from inflammation, monitoring the efficacy of drug treatments and improving the detection of disease recurrence. CONCLUSION: CEUS is an emerging technique that is part of the entire sonographic evaluation, with a role in the diagnosis and follow-up of CD, thus improving therapy planning and monitoring of the efficacy of treatment. ELECTRONIC SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL: The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s13244-011-0124-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.