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Endoscopic Diagnosis of Pediatric Acute Gastrointestinal Graft-Versus-Host Disease

Sultan, Mutaz*; Ramprasad, Jonathan*; Jensen, M. Kyle*; Margolis, David; Werlin, Steven*

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition: October 2012 - Volume 55 - Issue 4 - p 417–420
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e31825048eb

Background and Objectives: Acute graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in the first 100 days following allogeneic hematopoietic progenitor stem cell transplant. The best diagnostic endoscopic strategy for gastrointestinal (GI) GVHD is a matter of debate. Our aim in the present study was to compare the relative contribution of the endoscopic appearance and biopsies from upper endoscopy and flexible sigmoidoscopy in children with suspected acute GVHD.

Methods: The present study was designed as single-center retrospective chart review cohort study. We reviewed the charts of all of the patients younger than 18 years with suspected acute GI GVHD who had endoscopic evaluation within the first 100 days after stem cell transplant between 1999 and 2009.

Results: A total of 48 patients were included. The most common symptoms prompting endoscopic evaluation were diarrhea (70%) and a combination of nausea and vomiting (67%). GVHD was diagnosed in at least 1 biopsy site in 40 of 48 patients (83%). Twenty-two of 40 (55%) patients with GVHD had simultaneous upper and lower endoscopic biopsies, 11 patients had only upper endoscopy, and 7 had only lower endoscopy. The most common endoscopic finding was normal mucosa. The sensitivity for diagnosing GVHD was 77% for both rectosigmoid and upper endoscopic biopsies. Thirty-three of 40 patients had upper endoscopy with biopsies; 28 (85%) had GVHD. The sensitivities and negative predictive value of gastric biopsies were 85% and 63%, whereas for duodenal biopsies they were 50% and 57%, respectively.

Conclusions: Rectosigmoid and combined upper endoscopic biopsies are equally sensitive for the diagnosis of acute GI GVHD in children. Flexible sigmoidoscopy can be done unsedated in appropriate patients at the bedside without anesthesia; it can be performed first to identify GI GVHD.

*Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition

Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Steven Werlin, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Medical College of Wisconsin, 8701 Watertown Plank Rd, Milwaukee, WI 53226 (e-mail:

Received 18 August, 2011

Accepted 1 February, 2012

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Copyright 2012 by ESPGHAN and NASPGHAN