MRI predictors of treatment response for perianal fistulizing Crohn disease in children and young adults

Pediatr Radiol. 2014 Jan;44(1):23-9. doi: 10.1007/s00247-013-2771-5. Epub 2013 Sep 5.


Background: Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is considered the imaging standard for diagnosis and characterization of perianal complications associated with Crohn disease in children and adults.

Objective: To define MRI criteria that could act as potential predictors of treatment response in fistulizing Crohn disease in children, in order to guide more informed study interpretation.

Materials and methods: We performed a retrospective database query to identify all children and young adults with Crohn disease who underwent serial MRI studies for assessment of perianal symptoms between 2003 and 2010. We examined imaging features of perianal disease including fistula number, type and length, presence and size of associated abscess, and disease response/progression on follow-up MRI. We reviewed imaging studies and electronic medical records. Statistical analysis, including logistic regression, was performed to associate MR imaging features with treatment response and disease progression.

Results: We included 36 patients (22 male, 14 female; age range 8-21 years). Of these, 32 had a second MRI exam and 4 had clinical evidence of complete response, obviating the need for repeat imaging. Of the parameters analyzed, presence of abscess, type of fistula according to the Parks classification, and multiplicity were not predictors of treatment outcome. Maximum length of the dominant fistula and aggregate fistula length in the case of multiple fistulae were the best predictors of treatment outcome. Maximum fistula length <2.5 cm was a predictor of treatment response, while aggregate fistula length ≥2.5 cm was a predictor of disease progression.

Conclusion: Perianal fistula length is an important imaging feature to assess on MRI of fistulizing Crohn disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Crohn Disease / complications
  • Crohn Disease / diagnosis*
  • Crohn Disease / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Interpretation, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Prognosis
  • Rectal Fistula / diagnosis*
  • Rectal Fistula / etiology
  • Rectal Fistula / pathology*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult