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Small bowel imaging in celiac disease

Stijn J B Van Weyenberg, Chris J J Mulder, Jan Hein T M Van Waesberghe
Digestive Diseases 2015, 33 (2): 252-259

BACKGROUND: Modern small bowel imaging techniques allow detailed depiction of small-intestinal abnormalities. The role of these techniques in the investigation of celiac disease is increasing, especially in patients with suspected complicated celiac disease.

KEY MESSAGES: In general, there is no need for radiological small bowel imaging in uncomplicated celiac disease. It is however important that clinicians and radiologists are aware of certain specific radiological findings that may suggest celiac disease, especially since celiac disease is often not considered in adult patients, and small bowel radiology may be performed before specific tests for celiac disease. Radiological abnormalities can be observed with both conventional small bowel radiology studies, like small bowel follow-through or double-contrast small bowel enteroclysis, and newer modalities, like computed tomography or magnetic resonance enterography or enteroclysis. These signs include a decreased number of jejunal folds, an increased number of ileal folds, small bowel dilatation, wall thickening and intussusception. Extraintestinal abnormalities include mesenteric lymphadenopathy, vascular changes and splenic atrophy. Abnormalities congruent with refractory celiac disease type II include a severe decrease in jejunal folds, infiltration of the mesenteric fat and thickening of the small bowel wall. Additionally, a severely decreased splenic volume may indicate complicated celiac disease. Malignant complications of celiac disease, such as enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma and small-intestinal adenocarcinoma, can be reliably investigated with cross-sectional enteroclysis techniques.

CONCLUSIONS: Small bowel imaging and especially cross-sectional enteroclysis techniques are important extensions to the diagnostic workup of clinicians involved in the care of patients with celiac disease, especially those with suspected complicated disease.

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