The value of ultrasonography in the diagnosis, follow-up and for the detection of complications in patients with celiac sprue has not yet been sufficiently evaluated. A pronounced back and forth motility with echo-rich hump reflexes in a fluid-filled small bowel with a reduction of Kerckring's plicae circulares and with a loss of their density and uniformity was empirically defined as a diagnostic sign of celiac sprue. In the present study, the sonographic signs of celiac sprue were examined as an indicator of active sprue.
50 patients with histologically proven celiac sprue were examined with real time ultrasonography (3.5-7 MHz). The detection or exclusion of the defined sonographic signs of celiac sprue with intensified motility and reduction of Kerckring's plicae circulares with a loss of their density and uniformity were evaluated by two independent examiners and documented without knowledge of the clinical findings. The clinical activity (active vs. remission) was assessed according to clinical criteria (diarrhea, steatorrhea, weight loss). 38 healthy subjects and 50 patients with Crohn's disease served as controls.
In all 138 patients and controls adequate visualization of the bowel was achieved. In 16/50 (32%) patients with active celiac sprue changes of motility and reduction of Kerckring's plicae circulares with a loss of their density and uniformity were detected, whereas all 34/50 (68%) of patients with celiac sprue in remission did not have this pattern. In none of the controls with Crohn's disease or in the healthy subjects comparative sonographic signs of active celiac sprue were observed. In four patients with active celiac sprue a circumscript echopoor tumor of the small bowel wall could be sonographically detected, which turned out to be T-cell lymphoma in three and a carcinoma of the small intestine in one patient. An increased number of and/or enlarged mesenteric lymph nodes were found in patients with active celiac sprue.
Changes of motility and reduction of Kerckring's plicae circulares with loss of density and uniformity at ultrasonography are a reliable indicator of active celiac sprue.