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J Clin Gastroenterol. 2011 May-Jun;45(5):436-41. doi: 10.1097/MCG.0b013e31820f81b8.

Gastrointestinal and hepatic manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus.

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Department of Medicine, UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, New Brunswick, NJ 08903, USA.


In this review of the gastrointestinal (GI) and hepatic manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), 180 articles from the English literature, found using a medline search from January 1965 to December 2010, were examined. Vasculitis may cause ulcerations, bleeding, stricture formation, and perforation from ischemia and infarction. Otherwise, GI symptoms, occurring in about 50% of patients, are usually mild. Esophageal dysmotility may result in heartburn, regurgitation, and dysphagia. Occasionally, pneumatosis cystoides intestinalis may develop, sometimes associated with benign pneumoperitoneum. Patients are prone to salmonella bacteremia, presenting more commonly with fever and abdominal pain than with diarrhea. Intestinal pseudoobstruction usually is found with active lupus serology, preferentially involving small rather than the large bowel. Protein-losing enteropathy, characterized by diarrhea, edema, and hypoalbuminemia, can be the initial presentation of SLE. Malabsorption with a prevalence of 9.5% is occasionally associated with celiac disease. Pancreatitis, with an annual incidence of 0.4 to 1/1000, has an overall mortality of 27% that is decreased with corticosteroid therapy. Acute and chronic ascites may be due to lupus peritonitis or to associated diseases, such as pancreatitis, nephrotic syndrome, heart failure, or infections. Abnormal liver function tests may be due to steatosis from lupus or from corticosteroid therapy. Only about 10% of patients with autoimmune hepatitis have lupus. Up to 4.7% of patients with SLE have chronic active hepatitis correlating strongly with the presence of antibody to ribosomal P protein. SLE can involve the entire GI tract and the liver. Treatment with corticosteroids, cytotoxic agents, and/or immunosuppressants is often successful.

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