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Insights Imaging. 2018 Feb;9(1):47-58. doi: 10.1007/s13244-017-0579-9. Epub 2017 Nov 15.

Role of magnetic resonance imaging in the management of perianal Crohn's disease.

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Department of Radiology, Complexo Hospitalario Universitario de Ferrol, Av. da Residencia s/n, 15405, Ferrol, Spain.
Department of Gastroenterology, Complexo Hospitalario Universitario de Ferrol, Ferrol, Spain.


Perianal fistulas are a major problem in many patients with Crohn's disease. These are usually complex fistulas that adversely affect patients' quality of life, and their clinical management is difficult. Medical treatment sometimes achieves cessation of discharge and closure of the external opening; however, it is difficult to assess the status of the rest of the fistula tract. Magnetic resonance imaging is the method of choice with which to evaluate the condition of perianal fistulas and allows for assessment of the status of inaccessible areas. Magnetic resonance imaging also allows the clinician to evaluate other perianal manifestations of Crohn's disease that differ from the fistulas. This imaging technique is therefore a fundamental means of patient monitoring. When used in conjunction with assessment of the patient's morphological findings, it provides information that allows for both quantification of disease severity and evaluation of the response to treatment. New types of magnetic resonance sequences are emerging, such as diffusion, perfusion, and magnetisation transfer. These sequences may serve as biomarkers because they provide information reflecting the changes taking place at the molecular level. This will help to shape a new scenario in the early assessment of the response to treatments such as anti-tumour necrosis factor drugs.


• MRI is the method of choice with which to evaluate perianal fistulas. • In perianal Crohn's disease, MRI is a fundamental means of patient monitoring. • The usefulness of the Van Assche score for patient monitoring remains unclear. • New MRI sequences' diffusion, perfusion, and magnetisation transfer may serve as biomarkers.


Crohn’s disease; Diffusion magnetic resonance; Magnetic resonance imaging; Perfusion imaging; Perianal disorders

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