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Am J Surg Pathol. 2014 Oct;38(10):1319-29. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0000000000000317.

Gastrointestinal biopsy findings of autoimmune enteropathy: a review of 25 cases.

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*Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA †Envoi Pathology, Kelvin Grove ‡Pathology Queensland, Anatomical Pathology, Brisbane, Qld, Australia.


Autoimmune enteropathy (AIE) is a rare disorder characterized by severe diarrhea and small intestinal mucosal atrophy resulting from immune-mediated injury. It remains a challenging diagnosis because of its clinicopathologic variability. To better understand its histopathologic features, we describe the gastrointestinal biopsy findings of 25 patients, including children and adults. The most common finding on small intestinal biopsy (13/25 cases, 52%) was villous blunting, expansion of the lamina propria by mixed but predominantly mononuclear inflammation, and neutrophilic cryptitis with or without crypt microabscesses. In 5 cases (20%), the duodenum exhibited changes indistinguishable from celiac disease, with villous blunting and intraepithelial lymphocytosis. Increased crypt apoptosis with minimal inflammation, resembling acute graft-versus-host disease, was observed in 4 cases (16%). The remaining 3 cases (12%) exhibited a mixture of 2 or more of the above patterns. Mucosal abnormalities outside the small intestine were present in all 24 cases with available biopsies (100%), with the stomach most commonly affected (19/22 cases, 86%), followed by the colon (14/22, 64%) and esophagus (5/18, 28%). Findings in non-small intestinal sites were variable and included mixed active and chronic inflammation, chronic inflammation alone, intraepithelial lymphocytosis, and increased apoptosis resembling acute graft-versus-host disease. In summary, AIE most commonly presents as an active enteritis with villous blunting and expansion of the lamina propria by mixed inflammation. Mucosal abnormalities are frequently seen elsewhere in the gut. AIE may thus be better regarded as a pan-gastrointestinal autoimmune disorder, and biopsies from sites other than the small intestine may greatly facilitate its diagnosis.

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