Upper gastrointestinal tract involvement in inflammatory bowel diseases: Histologic clues and pitfalls

Bence Kovári, Rish K. Pai

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The upper gastrointestinal (UGI) manifestations of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) are frequently obscured by classic ileal and colonic symptoms and are reported to involve only 0.5% to 4% of adult patients. However, because of the improvement of endoscopic techniques and the growing use of esophagogastroduodenososcopy with biopsy, both asymptomatic and clinically significant esophageal, gastric, and duodenal manifestations are increasingly recognized. The UGI involvement in IBD was historically synonymous with Crohn's disease (CD), but the doctrine of ulcerative colitis (UC) being limited to the colon has been challenged, and UC-related gastroduodenal lesions have been reported. The diagnosis of UGI IBD should ideally rely on a combination of the clinical history, endoscopic picture, and histologic features. Although endoscopic changes such as aphthoid or longitudinal ulcers and bamboo-joint-like pattern are suggestive of CD, histologic evaluation increases the sensitivity of the IBD diagnosis since histologic alterations may be present in endoscopically unremarkable mucosa. Conversely, in many cases, the histologic findings are nonspecific, and the knowledge of clinical history is vital for reaching an accurate diagnosis. The presence of epithelioid granuloma is highly suggestive of CD but is present in a minority of CD cases; thus, pathologists should be aware of how to diagnose UGI IBD in the absence of granulomata. This article reviews the most important clinical, endoscopic, and histologic features of IBD-associated esophagitis, gastritis, and duodenitis, as well as the IBD-related manifestations in the biliary tract and the postcolectomy setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2-14
Number of pages13
JournalAdvances in anatomic pathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • Crohn's disease
  • Duodenum
  • Esophagus
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Pouchitis
  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis
  • Stomach
  • Ulcerative colitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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