Objectives: Bowel wall thickening on computed tomography (CT) scans in children may raise concern for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The significance of this radiological finding is unclear. Our purpose was to evaluate the clinical outcomes with regard to IBD in children with no known underlying disease, presenting with abdominal pain and thickened bowel wall on CT scan.
Methods: A retrospective analysis of pediatric patients with abdominal pain and CT findings of thickened bowel wall was performed between 2006 and 2010. Endoscopic findings, clinical variables, and follow-up assessments were evaluated.
Results: Fifty-six patients presenting with abdominal pain and thickened bowel wall findings on CT scan were identified. Overall, 30 (54%) had terminal ileum wall thickening, 17 (30%) had isolated colonic wall thickening, and 9 (16%) had other small bowel wall thickening. Of the 56 patients, 21 (38%) underwent endoscopy, of which 14 (67%) had positive findings—11 (79%) had histologic evidence of chronic colitis, and 5 (36%) had duodenitis/ileitis. Ultimately, 11/56 (20%) were diagnosed as having IBD, 8/56 (14%) with functional abdominal pain/constipation, 9/56 (16%) appendicitis, 10/56 (18%) infectious gastroenteritis, and 18/56 (32%) with miscellaneous diagnoses. Median levels of erythrocyte sedimentation rate, C-reactive protein, albumin, and platelet count were significantly abnormal in the IBD group compared to the non-IBD group. Additional follow-up of those who did not undergo endoscopic evaluation revealed no new diagnoses of IBD.
Conclusions: The presence of thickened bowel wall on CT scans is a nonspecific finding in children. Laboratory evaluation may help distinguish which patients require additional evaluation and endoscopy.