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Clinical Significance of Eosinophilia and Chronic Inflammatory Infiltrate in Children's Rectal Biopsies

Pacilli, Maurizio*; Eaton, Simon; Clarke, Alessandra*; Whitehead, Anita; Nagy, Anita; Brain, Jeffrey L.*

Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology & Nutrition: November 2012 - Volume 55 - Issue 5 - p 519–522
doi: 10.1097/MPG.0b013e31825b3169
Original Articles: Gastroenterology

Aims: The aim of the present study was to determine the clinical significance of an incidental finding of eosinophilia (EOS) and chronic inflammatory infiltrate (CINF) in rectal biopsies of children investigated for suspected Hirschsprung disease (HSCR).

Methods: A retrospective study (2000–2010) of children incidentally found to have EOS and CINF was performed. HSCR cases were excluded. Presence of gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms and nutritional status (weight-for-age z score) were investigated and compared with a matched cohort with normal biopsy.

Results: Of 364 children undergoing rectal biopsy for suspected HSCR, 109 had confirmed HSCR, whereas 255 children had normal ganglia. Forty-four of 255 (17%) children had EOS and/or CINF incidentally reported and are the subject of the present study. In 13 of 44 (29%) children, the biopsy was performed neonatally. At follow-up (4.6 months [1–22]), 21 (48%) had food and/or milk allergy, 30 (68%) had constipation and/or other GI symptoms. There was no change in weight-for-age z score (P = 0.85) at follow-up and 8 (20%) had failure to thrive. Only 10 of 44 (P = 0.0001 vs patients with EOS and/or CINF) children with normal biopsy had persistent constipation at follow-up (9.7 months [0.5–84.7]) and 1 patient had atopy. Patients with normal biopsy exhibited an increase in weight-for-age z score at follow-up (P = 0.003) and only 3 patients (7%) had failure to thrive.

Conclusions: EOS and CINF are found in 17% of children who had rectal biopsies negative for HSCR. Half of these children will need further medical input for the presence of persisting GI symptoms, food/milk allergy and failure to thrive, and the possibility to develop inflammatory bowel disease later in life.

*Paediatric Surgery Unit, Cambridge University Hospital, Cambridge

Department of Surgery, UCL Institute of Child Health, London

Department of Histopathology, Cambridge University Hospital, Cambridge, UK.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Maurizio Pacilli, MD, MRCS (Eng.), Paediatric Surgery Unit, Box 267, Cambridge University Hospital, Hills Rd, Cambridge CB2 0QQ, UK (e-mail:

Received 22 August, 2011

Accepted 18 April, 2012

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Copyright 2012 by ESPGHAN and NASPGHAN