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Neutropenic enterocolitis in patients with acute leukemia: prognostic significance of bowel wall thickening detected by ultrasonography

C Cartoni, F Dragoni, A Micozzi, E Pescarmona, S Mecarocci, P Chirletti, M C Petti, G Meloni, F Mandelli
Journal of Clinical Oncology 2001 February 1, 19 (3): 756-61

PURPOSE: Neutropenic enterocolitis (NE) is a severe complication of intensive chemotherapy and is barely identifiable by clinical signs alone. Ultrasonography (US) supports the diagnosis of NE by showing pathologic thickening of the bowel wall. The aim of this study was to evaluate the prognostic value of the degree of mural thickening evaluated by US in patients with clinically suspected NE.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Neutropenic patients with fever, diarrhea, and abdominal pain after intensive chemotherapy for hematologic malignancies were studied with abdominal US. We evaluated the degree of bowel wall thickening detected by US and its correlation with the duration of the clinical syndrome as well as NE-related mortality.

RESULTS: Eighty-eight (6%) of 1,450 consecutive patients treated for leukemia had clinical signs of NE. In 44 (50%) of 88 patients, US revealed pathologic wall thickening (mean +/- SD, 10.2 +/- 2.9 mm; range, 6 to 18). The mean duration of symptoms was significantly longer in this group (7.9 days) than among patients without mural thickening (3.8 days, P <.0001), and the NE-related mortality rate was higher (29.5% v 0%, P <.001). Patients with bowel wall thickness of more than 10 mm had a significantly higher mortality rate (60%) than did those with bowel wall thickness < or = 10 mm (4.2%, P <.001).

CONCLUSION: Symptomatic patients with sonographically detected bowel wall thickening have a poor prognosis compared with patients without this finding. In addition, mural thickness of more than 10 mm is associated with poorer outcome among patients with NE.

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