Ulcerative colitis other diagnostic studies

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1], Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Usama Talib, BSc, MD [2]


Other diagnostic studies such as colonoscopy, tissue biopsy and histological analysis can help with the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.[1][2]

Other Diagnostic Studies


Colonoscopic findings can help differentiate ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease. Involvement of the colon and rectum and the absence of fistulas are findings that favor the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis.[3] The best test for diagnosis of ulcerative colitis remains endoscopy. Full colonoscopy to the cecum and entry into the terminal ileum is attempted only if diagnosis of UC is unclear. Otherwise, a flexible sigmoidoscopy is sufficient to support the diagnosis. The physician may elect to limit the extent of the exam if severe colitis is encountered to minimize the risk of perforation of the colon. Endoscopic findings in ulcerative colitis include the following:[2][4]

Ulcerative colitis is usually continuous proximally from the rectum, with the rectum almost universally being involved. There is rarely peri-anal disease, but cases have been reported. The degree of involvement endoscopically ranges from proctitis or inflammation of the rectum, to left sided colitis, to pancolitis, which is inflammation involving the ascending colon.

Biopsy sample (H&E stain) that demonstrates marked lymphocytic infiltration (blue/purple) of the intestinal mucosa and architectural distortion of the crypts. - By User:KGH - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=510530

Tissue Biopsy

Biopsy shows absence of deep tissue involvement in case of ulcerative colitis. A biopsy of a patient with ulcerative colitis shows continuous involvement of the colon, lacks abscesses and granulomas.[5][1]


Biopsies of the mucosa are taken to definitively diagnose UC and differentiate it from Crohn's disease, which is managed differently clinically. Microbiological samples are typically taken at the time of endoscopy. The pathology in ulcerative colitis typically involves distortion of crypt architecture, inflammation of crypts (cryptitis), frank crypt abscesses, and hemorrhage or inflammatory cells in the lamina propria. In cases where the clinical picture is unclear, the histomorphologic analysis often plays a pivotal role in determining the management.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Hu J, Zhao G, Zhang L, Qiao C, Di A, Gao H; et al. (2016). "Safety and therapeutic effect of mesenchymal stem cell infusion on moderate to severe ulcerative colitis". Exp Ther Med. 12 (5): 2983–2989. doi:10.3892/etm.2016.3724. PMC 5103734. PMID 27882104.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Prantera C, Davoli M, Lorenzetti R, Pallone F, Marcheggiano A, Iannoni C; et al. (1988). "Clinical and laboratory indicators of extent of ulcerative colitis. Serum C-reactive protein helps the most". J Clin Gastroenterol. 10 (1): 41–5. PMID 3356884.
  3. Kornbluth, Asher (2004). "Ulcerative Colitis Practice Guidelines in Adults" (PDF). American Journal of Gastroenterology. 99 (7): 1371–1385. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.2004.40036.x. PMID 15233681. Retrieved 2006-11-08. Unknown parameter |month= ignored (help); Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help)
  4. Kim B, Barnett JL, Kleer CG, Appelman HD (1999). "Endoscopic and histological patchiness in treated ulcerative colitis". Am J Gastroenterol. 94 (11): 3258–62. doi:10.1111/j.1572-0241.1999.01533.x. PMID 10566726.
  5. Reinisch W, Colombel JF, D'Haens G, Sandborn WJ, Rutgeerts P, Geboes K; et al. (2017). "Characterisation of Mucosal Healing with Adalimumab Treatment in Patients with Moderately to Severely Active Crohn's Disease: Results from the EXTEND Trial". J Crohns Colitis. 11 (4): 425–434. doi:10.1093/ecco-jcc/jjw178. PMID 27815351.

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