Background: Crohn's disease (CD) is routinely evaluated using clinical symptoms, laboratory variables, and the CD activity index (CDAI). However, clinical parameters are often nonspecific and do not precisely reflect the actual activity of CD small-intestinal lesions. The purposes of this prospective study were to compare color Doppler ultrasound (US) findings with histological findings from surgically resected specimens and confirm the hypothesis that color Doppler US can distinguish tissue inflammation and fibrosis.
Methods: Among 1764 consecutive patients who underwent color Doppler US examinations, 10 patients with CD (12 small-intestinal CD lesions) who underwent US examinations before elective small-intestine resection were evaluated in the present study. Areas of thickened intestinal walls were evaluated in terms of blood flow using color Doppler US imaging. The blood flow was semiquantitatively classified as "hyper-flow" and "hypo-flow" according to the Limberg score. Resected lesions were macroscopically and histopathologically processed. Inflammatory cell infiltration, fibrosis and vascularity were evaluated by myeloperoxidase (granulocytes), CD163 (macrophages), CD79a (B cells), CD3 (T cells), Masson's trichrome (fibrosis), and factor VIII staining (vascular walls). All histopathological images were entered into virtual slide equipment and quantified using a quantitative microscopy integrated system (TissueMorph™).
Results: There were no significant differences in disease features or laboratory findings between "hypo-flow" lesions (n = 4) and "hyper-flow" lesions (n = 8). Histopathologically, "hyper-flow" lesions showed significantly greater bowel wall vascularity (factor VIII) (p = 0.047) and inflammatory cell infiltration, including CD163 macrophages (p = 0.008), CD3 T cells, and CD79a B cells (p = 0.043), than did "hypo-flow" lesions. There was no apparent association between the blood flow and CDAI.
Conclusions: In this study, active CD lesions were macroscopically visible in surgical specimens of patients with increased blood flow on preoperative color Doppler US imaging. Additionally, these CD lesions exhibited significantly greater vascularity and numbers of inflammatory leukocytes microscopically. Color Doppler US may predict tissue inflammation and fibrosis in small-intenstinal CD lesions.