Background and study aims: Patients with intestinal graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) are generally in poor clinical condition. In this study we aimed to establish the clinical significance of endoscopic diagnosis of this condition, observing only the distal section of the large intestine. Patients and methods: Endoscopic and pathological findings at colonoscopy were evaluated retrospectively in 12 patients who were diagnosed with intestinal GVHD after undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Results: The main mucosal changes observed at endoscopy were granular change, edema, "spotty redness", and sloughing. These were clearly displayed after enhancement with Indigo carmine staining, and with insertion of the colonoscope only as far as the distal section of the large intestine. A histological diagnosis of intestinal GVHD was made in 50% of the patients, whose intestinal epithelium specimens showed numerous apoptotic bodies. It was possible to perform total colonoscopy in two patients who were in relatively good condition clinically, but there were no remarkable differences in the endoscopic findings throughout the large intestine, from the terminal ileum to the rectum. In terms of clinical outcomes of the 12 patients, their prognosis was poor in that they all either went on to suffer from chronic GVHD or died. Conclusions: Endoscopic and histological findings on distal colonoscopy are clinically significant in the diagnosis of intestinal GVHD, and limiting this examination to the distal section of the large intestine avoids causing further clinical deterioration in patients who are already in very poor general condition and the possibility of causing endoscopy-related complications.
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