Sonography of inflammatory bowel disease: findings and value in differential diagnosis

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 1994 Aug;163(2):343-7. doi: 10.2214/ajr.163.2.8037027.


Objective: Inflammatory bowel diseases produce segmental or diffuse mural thickening of the intestine that can be detected and evaluated by using sonography. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the sonographic findings and determine their diagnostic value in patients with inflammatory bowel diseases.

Materials and methods: We reviewed sonograms of 81 patients with inflammatory bowel diseases. The findings were compared with those of barium study, colonoscopy, and surgery. Forty-five patients had tuberculous enterocolitis, 13 had ulcerative colitis, eight had Crohn's disease, five had ischemic colitis, two had Behçet's syndrome, and eight had unspecified colitis. Diagnosis was based on surgical and pathologic findings in 23; results of barium study and endoscopic biopsy in 20; and results of barium study, colonoscopic findings, and clinical findings in 38.

Results: Seventy-two patients (89%) had sonograms that showed segmental or diffuse mural thickening and a paucity of luminal content in the involved bowel. Involved areas were the ileocecal region in the cases of tuberculous enterocolitis and Behçet's syndrome, the left side of the colon in ulcerative colitis, and the colon and terminal part of the ileum in Crohn's disease. In ischemic colitis, the distribution of involved bowel was nonspecific. Sonographic findings correlated well with the findings of barium enema or colonoscopy in terms of the involved segments of the bowel. Mesenteric lymphadenitis, omental thickening, and ascites were frequently observed in cases of tuberculous enterocolitis.

Conclusion: Sonographic evidence of mural thickening of the bowel with a paucity of luminal content may be helpful in the detection of inflammatory bowel diseases. However, the findings are nonspecific, and the differential diagnosis must be related to the specific segment of the bowel involved.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Barium Sulfate
  • Colonoscopy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Enterocolitis / diagnosis
  • Enterocolitis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diagnosis
  • Inflammatory Bowel Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Tuberculosis, Gastrointestinal / diagnosis
  • Tuberculosis, Gastrointestinal / diagnostic imaging*
  • Ultrasonography


  • Barium Sulfate