Objectives: For the choice of treatment in children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it is important to make a distinction between Crohn disease (CD) and ulcerative colitis (UC). To look for pathognomonic features of CD, upper gastrointestinal tract (UGT) endoscopy has become part of the routine evaluation of children with suspected IBD; however, pathological changes can also be found in the UGT in patients with UC. The aims of the present study were to establish the role of UGT involvement in the diagnostic assessment of suspected IBD in children and to detect histopathological changes in the UGT mucosa, which can distinguish CD from non-CD (UC and non-IBD).
Methods: Biopsies (colon, ileum, duodenum, stomach, esophagus) from children suspected of having IBD who underwent endoscopy between 2003 and 2008 were reassessed by a blinded, expert pathologist. The histological findings of the UGT were compared with the diagnosis based on ileocolonic biopsies and the final diagnosis.
Results: In 11% of the children with CD, the diagnosis was based solely on the finding of granulomatous inflammation in the UGT. Focal cryptitis of the duodenum and focally enhanced gastritis were found significantly more frequently in children with CD compared with children with UC and non-IBD, with a specificity and positive predictive value of 99% and 93% and 87.1% and 78.6%, respectively.
Conclusions: Histology on ileocolonic biopsies alone is insufficient for a correct diagnosis of CD or UC in children. UGT endoscopy should, therefore, be performed in the diagnostic assessment of all children suspected of having IBD.