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Bác sĩ Nội trú Ngoại » Tự đánh giá
A 61-Year-Old Man With Crampy Abdominal Pain
Ngày cập nhật: 17/01/2011 09:21:58

 What is the most likely diagnosis of this case

Hint: Note the frequent passage of bloody loose stools for more than 2 months in the setting of fever, tachycardia, and anemia.
       Your Colleagues Responded:
   Colorectal cancer  11%
   Microscopic colitis  9%
Inflammatory bowel disease Correct Answer  57%
   Hemorroids  1%

 Clostridium difficile colitis  22%
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Figure 1.
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Figure 2.
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Figure 3.


The diagnosis of fulminant ulcerative colitis, an idiopathic form of inflammatory bowel disease, was initially suspected on the basis of the patient's history, physical examination, and laboratory test results; endoscopic and biopsy findings confirmed the diagnosis. The rectal bleeding was bright red, indicating that the source of the bleeding was most likely the lower gastrointestinal tract. The concurrent presence of crampy abdominal pain, diarrhea, tenesmus, and fever suggested that an inflammatory process had damaged the colonic mucosa. The unremarkable colonoscopy findings 2 years before presentation rendered a neoplasm unlikely. Although not impossible, it is rare for colon cancer to present with diarrhea. Most compelling was the continuity and character of the mucosal damage identified on endoscopy and the histopathologic findings, which were diagnostic of ulcerative colitis. Symptom duration suggested a chronic inflammatory process and infectious causes of colitis had been ruled out.
Ulcerative colitis is estimated to respectively have an incidence of 7.3 and prevalence of 116 per 100,000 people in the United States. The peak age at onset is 15-25 years, with a second peak at 40-60 years. Individuals of Ashkenazi Jewish or Scandinavian descent are more often affected, with men and women experiencing a similar disease incidence. Smoking seems to play a protective role against the development of ulcerative colitis, and it has been proposed that the second incidence peak in part represents patients who stopped smoking at a later age. Most research suggests that the etiology and pathogenesis of ulcerative colitis are multifactorial, with a combination of genetic susceptibility, bacterial antigens, and alteration of mucosal immunity responsible for the development of the disease.
Histopathologically, ulcerative colitis is characterized by lymphoplasmacytic inflammation of the mucosa and submucosa, with scattered neutrophils in the lamina propria (Figure 1). The neutrophils typically injure the crypt epithelium and may collect in the base of the crypts, forming crypt abscesses (Figure 2). Within weeks of disease onset, features of crypt architectural distortion (such as crypt branching and shortening) develop; these chronic changes are a nonspecific regenerative response to previous injury. Deep granulomas and transmural inflammation, 2 hallmarks of Crohn's disease, do not occur.
Classically, ulcerative colitis is insidious in onset. Affected patients present with frequent passage of bloody, loose stools and tenesmus. The intensity of the symptoms generally correlates with the extent of anatomic involvement, allowing classification of disease as mild, moderate, or severe/fulminant. The majority of patients have mild, indolent disease limited to the rectum and sigmoid colon that is characterized by diarrhea, intermittent rectal bleeding, and tenesmus. The physical examination is often normal aside from bright red blood within the rectum. Other patients present with systemic symptoms, including more frequent bowel movements, crampy abdominal pain, decreased bowel sounds, high-grade fever, tachycardia, anemia, orthostatic hypotension, and weight loss. Extraintestinal manifestations, such as acute arthropathy, episcleritis, erythema nodosum, and pyoderma gangrenosum may also arise. Fewer than 10% of patients with ulcerative colitis initially present with fulminant disease, with older individuals represented in greater numbers. Fulminant ulcerative colitis is more abrupt in onset and is usually characterized by extensive colonic involvement ("pancolitis"), with rectal bleeding that may be extensive enough to necessitate blood transfusion. Abdominal distention and tenderness to palpation with signs of peritoneal inflammation (eg, rebound tenderness) may be observed in these patients. Of greatest concern in patients with fulminant disease is the prospect of massive hemorrhage, toxic megacolon, or bowel perforation. Immediate hospitalization is often necessary in these patients.
The differential diagnosis of bright red blood in the rectum associated with diarrhea includes infectious colitis, ischemic colitis, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug enteropathy. Other causes of colonic bleeding, such as diverticular disease, can present with loose stools, because blood is a cathartic. Stool studies (eg, fecal leukocytes, culture, ova, and parasites) and a Clostridium difficile toxin screen should be considered to eliminate the possibility of infectious colitis. A complete blood cell count should be obtained to evaluate for anemia or leukocytosis. Low albumin levels signify poor nutritional status and protein-losing enteropathy. A basic metabolic panel may demonstrate electrolyte abnormalities in the setting of severe prolonged diarrhea. Inflammatory markers, such as the erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein level, are typically elevated in patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Radiographic studies may be used as an adjunct in diagnosing complications of ulcerative colitis (eg, plain films can establish the presence of toxic megacolon). In the setting of acute flares, other radiologic studies, such as computed tomography (CT), may be done to evaluate for an alternative diagnosis. Common CT findings in ulcerative colitis include thickening of the colonic wall, pericolonic fat stranding, and a "target" appearance of the rectum. Most important in confirming the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis is flexible sigmoidoscopy with biopsy; colonoscopy may also be used in some settings, but it is associated with a higher risk for perforation and is contraindicated in cases of suspected toxic megacolon. Typical endoscopic findings in ulcerative colitis patients include diffuse erythema; edema; friability; and granularity of the mucosa, with loss of the normal vascular pattern. Ulceration with exudate and pseudopolyps are frequently identified as well. These findings invariably begin in the rectum and extend proximally in a continuous manner, up to and including the cecum, in cases of pancolitis.
In most cases, ulcerative colitis can be managed in the outpatient setting. Treatment is designed to achieve and maintain disease remission. Topical therapy and 5-aminosalicylic acid (ASA) agents are the first-line means of treating ulcerative colitis, with steroids for acute flares and immunomodulators as maintenance therapy in severe refractory disease. Fulminant ulcerative colitis requires careful attention to the development of toxic megacolon. Parenteral corticosteroids; rehydration; bowel rest; nutritional supplementation; anticoagulation with low-dose heparin to prevent venous thrombosis, which is common in patients with ulcerative colitis; and monitoring of hemoglobin values (with transfusion sometimes required) are recommended. If remission is achieved, a maintenance regimen consisting of immunomodulators (such as cyclosporine, 6-mercaptopurine, or azathioprine) and/or 5-ASA should be initiated. In patients with fulminant ulcerative colitis that is refractory to first-line therapy, infusion of a biologic agent (such as infliximab) or colectomy may be necessary.
The patient in this case was immediately admitted to the hospital because of concerns that he was at risk for massive hemorrhage, toxic megacolon, or bowel perforation. Three units of cross-matched blood were transfused, and he was prescribed bowel rest, peripheral hyperalimentation, and prednisolone. Shortly thereafter, 5-ASA was added to his therapeutic regimen. His symptoms resolved gradually, and he was discharged to home. Over the next few years, he experienced several disease flares, and the benefits and risks of immunomodulators and biologic agents versus colectomy were reviewed with him during a particularly severe flare. After considerable reflection, he decided in favor of colectomy; the patient tolerated the operation well. Gross examination of the colectomy specimen demonstrated involvement of the entire colon from cecum to anus. Multiple irregular ulcers with an associated yellow-white exudate were scattered throughout the colon, and diffuse pseudopolyps (Figure 3) were present. Findings consistent with Crohn's disease (eg, fissures, fistulas, perianal involvement, "creeping fat," and segmental disease) were not identified. As expected, the procedure resulted in complete remission of the patient's symptoms. After ileal pouch anal anastomosis surgery, most patients can expect to have 4-6 loose bowel movements per day.
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