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Ann Surg. 2001 Mar;233(3):345-52.

Preoperative characteristics and postoperative behavior of bowel wall on risk of recurrence after conservative surgery in Crohn's disease: a prospective study.

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Gastrointestinal Unit, Università degli Studi di Milano, Ospedale Luigi Sacco, Milan, Italy.



To evaluate in patients with Crohn's disease, using transabdominal ultrasound, the morphologic characteristics of the diseased bowel wall before and after conservative surgery and to assess whether these characteristics and their behavior in the postoperative follow-up are useful and reliable prognostic factors of clinical and surgical recurrence.


Ultrasound is effective for evaluating the thickness of bowel wall, the most typical and constant finding of Crohn's disease. No data are currently available concerning the behavior of the diseased intestinal wall after conservative surgery and whether the preoperative characteristics of bowel wall or its behavior after conservative surgery may predict recurrence.


In 85 consecutive patients treated with strictureplasty and miniresections for Crohn's disease, clinical and ultrasonographic evaluations were performed before and 6 months after surgery. Assessed before surgery were the maximum bowel wall thickness, the length of bowel wall thickening, the bowel wall echo pattern (homogeneous, stratified, and mixed), and the postoperative bowel wall behavior, classified as normalized, improved, unchanged, or worsened.


A significant correlation was found between a long preoperative bowel wall thickening and surgical recurrence. Bowel wall thickness after surgery was unchanged or worsened in 43.3% of patients; in these patients, there was a high frequency of previous surgery. Patients with unchanged or worsened bowel wall thickness had a higher risk of clinical and surgical recurrence compared with those with normalized or improved bowel wall thickness.


With the use of abdominal ultrasound, the authors found that the thickening of diseased bowel wall may unexpectedly improve after conservative surgery, and this is associated with a favorable outcome in terms of clinical and surgical recurrence. In addition to its diagnostic usefulness, ultrasound also provides reliable prognostic information concerning clinical and surgical recurrence in patients with Crohn's disease in the postoperative follow-up.

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