Systematic Review: Clinical Utility of Gastrointestinal Ultrasound in the Diagnosis, Assessment and Management of Patients With Ulcerative Colitis

Rebecca L. Smith, Kirstin M. Taylor, Antony B. Friedman, Robert N. Gibson, Peter R. Gibson

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BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Gastrointestinal ultrasound is useful in the assessment of patients with Crohn's disease, but its application in ulcerative colitis [UC] is less well established. Here we systematically review the role of gastrointestinal ultrasound in patients with UC. METHODS: Searches of the PUBMED and EMBASE databases were performed with the following search strategy: [ultrasound OR sonography] AND [intestinal OR bowel] AND [ulcerative colitis OR inflammatory bowel disease]. The final search was performed in August 2019. RESULTS: Of 6769 studies identified in the search with a further two studies found from other sources, 50 studies met the inclusion criteria. Increased bowel wall thickness and detection of increased blood flow by colour Doppler were the most often applied criteria for defining disease activity and distribution. When compared with other reference investigations, gastrointestinal ultrasound accurately determined disease extent, severity and response to medical therapy. While further information can be obtained from haemodynamic measurements of the abdominal vessels and contrast-enhanced ultrasound, their clinical value was uncertain. Likewise, hydrocolonic sonography has few advantages over standard gastrointestinal ultrasound examination. Of several scoring systems proposed, there is disparity between the measures and a general lack of validation. There has been limited application of gastrointestinal ultrasound in acute severe ulcerative colitis with toxic megacolon, and, while performing well in children, normal limits differ from those in adults. CONCLUSION: Current evidence indicates that gastrointestinal ultrasound has utility in the non-invasive assessment of patients with UC. Continued advances in technology with better image resolution, validation of scoring systems and application at the point of care by gastroenterologists are likely to contribute to increased use of gastrointestinal ultrasound in routine clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)465-479
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Crohn's and Colitis
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2020


  • disease activity
  • Gastrointestinal ultrasound
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • prognosis
  • ulcerative colitis
  • ultrasonography
  • ultrasound

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