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Am J Gastroenterol. 2008 Mar;103(3):776-87. Epub 2007 Dec 12.

Gastrointestinal manifestations of amyloidosis.

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Department of Medicine, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, New Jersey 09803, USA.


Amyloidosis is characterized by extracellular deposition of abnormal protein. There are six types: primary, secondary, hemodialysis-related, hereditary, senile, and localized. Primary (AL) amyloidosis is associated with monoclonal light chains in serum and/or urine with 15% of patients having multiple myeloma. Secondary (AA) amyloidosis is associated with inflammatory, infectious, and neoplastic diseases. The presentation is protean, including macroglossia, a dilated and atonic esophagus, gastric polyps or enlarged folds, and luminal narrowing or ulceration of the colon. Amyloid deposition in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract is greatest in the small intestine. The symptoms include diarrhea, steatorrhea, or constipation. Pseudo-obstruction carries a particularly grave prognosis, often not responding to pro-motility agents. Hepatic involvement is common, but the clinical manifestations are usually mild with hepatomegaly and an elevated alkaline phosphatase level. Biopsies to diagnose amyloidosis can be taken from the fat, kidney, intestine, or bone marrow. The safety of liver biopsies is controversial. With Congo Red stain, amyloid appears red in normal light and apple-green in polarized light. Treatment for AL amyloidosis is chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation; treatment for AA amyloidosis is control of the underlying disease. Amyloidosis should be considered in patients with proteinuria, cardiomyopathy, hepatomegaly (with mildly abnormal liver tests), peripheral and autonomic neuropathy, weight loss, and GI symptoms.

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