Gastrointestinal involvement in chronic graft-versus-host disease: A clinicopathologic study

Görgün Akpek, Wichai Chinratanalab, Linda A. Lee, Michael Torbenson, Jason P. Hallick, Viki Anders, Georgia B. Vogelsang

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76 Scopus citations


The original histopathologic description of chronic graft-versus-host disease (CGVHD) of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract was from autopsy series. There is little information on the evaluation of living patients with CGVHD and GI symptoms. We reviewed data on 40 consecutive patients with CGVHD and persistent GI symptoms who underwent endoscopic examinations. The diagnosis of CGVHD in these 40 patients was made on the basis of clinical criteria and confirmed by histology of other involved organs in 70%. Patients had progressive (in 19 patients, or 48%), quiescent (in 11, or 27%) or de novo-type (in 10, or 25%) onset of their CGVHD. Four groups were defined based on the following histologic criteria: (1) consistent with acute GI GVHD if there was marked apoptosis with or without cryptitis, (2) suggestive of acute GI GVHD if there was scattered apoptosis with or without cryptitis, (3) suggestive of chronic GI GVHD if there were at least 2 histologic indicators of chronicity such as fibrosis and significant crypt distortion, and (4) no histologic evidence of GVHD. Results of microbiologic, radiologic, and malabsorption studies, if performed, were also retrieved. Median time from diagnosis of CGVHD to GI endoscopy was 4.5 months (0-109 months). The major GI symptoms at the time of endoscopy were diarrhea, abdominal pain/cramping, nausea/vomiting, weight loss, dysphagia, and early satiety. The endoscopic examination was nonspecific for the diagnosis of GI GVHD except for diffuse mucosal sloughing. Based on the histologic criteria in 22 patients with biopsies, 13 cases (59%) were considered to have acute GI GVHD, and 3 cases (14%) were felt to show possible chronic GI GVHD; changes of both acute and chronic GVHD were seen in 6 (27%) cases. GI dysmotility was diagnosed in 7 (18%) patients, including 2 of the patients who had histologic changes suggestive of chronic GVHD. Other causes of the GI symptoms included infection, drug side effect, and malabsorption. In conclusion, GI involvement by acute GVHD appears to be a major cause of persistent GI symptoms in patients with chronic GVHD. An isolated form of chronic GI GVHD confirmed by histology is an uncommon phenomenon in the actual clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)46-51
Number of pages6
JournalBiology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003


  • Chronic
  • Graft-versus-host disease (GVHD)
  • Gut
  • Intestinal
  • Pathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Transplantation


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