(RxWiki News) These days, doctors have a tough time determining whether their patients with Crohn's disease need surgery or medication. A new diagnostic tool could make their job much easier.
Current technology doesn't allow doctors to see the difference between inflammation, which responds to medication, and internal fibrosis, which requires surgery. A new imaging method uses ultrasound elasticity imaging (UEI) to measure the thickness of tissues inside the body, which could let doctors differentiate between the two conditions without surgery.
"Ask your doctor about ultrasound imaging for Crohn's disease."
Crohn's disease is an autoimmune disease associated with chronic inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract. Over time, scar tissue can form, causing internal fibrosis. Internal fibrosis is regarded as a complication of Crohn's disease. If it's not diagnosed, patients are often treated with immune-suppressing drugs. These medications are unlikely to treat the symptoms, and put the patient at greater risk for other health complications, rather than helping their condition.
The subtle difference between internal fibrosis and inflammation is found in the intestinal tissues. Inflammed tissue is soft, compared to the hard and thick tissue that marks internal fibrosis. Ultrasound can measure the relative difference between the two tissues, making diagnosis much simpler than the invasive surgical procedures used today.
In a study published in the journal Gastroenterology, scientists were accurately able to spot the distinction between the two conditions in rats. They also conducted a small and successful pilot study with humans, evaluating patients before they went in for surgery. The UEI device found the thick, hard tissue in each case.
The study authors say that the next step is a large-scale clinical trial. The study concluded that ultrasound imaging technology has the potential to become a new objective measure of intenstinal fibrosis. The research was published in 2011.