Background and Aims: Bowel ultrasound (BU) is a non-invasive, inexpensive, widely available tool, valuable for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) assessment. The aim of the present study was to investigate the clinical utility of BU to predict the need to intensify therapy in IBD patients.

Methods: One hundred seventeen IBD patients (89 Crohn’s disease, and 28 ulcerative colitis) diagnosis established at least 6 months before enrolment, undergoing maintenance therapy were prospectively included in the study. Bowel ultrasound investigated the following parameters: the bowel wall thickness (BWT), loss of wall stratification, the presence of the bowel wall Doppler signal, the visible lymph nodes, the mucosal hyperechoic spots, and the irregular external bowel wall. The patients were followed-up for 6 months, registering the need to escalate the treatment regimen. Subgroup analyses were conducted for patients requiring immediate treatment intensification (37 subjects), due to active disease at baseline and patients with subsequent treatment intensification, in the 6 months follow-up period (21 cases) in comparison to patients that required no therapeutic optimization (59).

Results: During the follow-up, 49.6% of patients needed treatment escalation. All the investigated BU variables were significantly associated with the main outcome. In the multivariate analysis, the mean BWT (p<0.0001), and the presence of the bowel wall Doppler signal (p=0.007) were independent predictors of the main outcome. For the subgroup analyses: mean BWT (p=0.0001) and the presence of the bowel wall Doppler signal (p=0.01) were independent predictors for immediate treatment intensification (active disease at baseline) and mean BWT (p=0.0003) and the lack of bowel wall stratification (p=0.05) were independent predictors for the need of subsequent therapeutic optimization. Logistic regression prediction models and prediction scores (BU score) had the best AUROC values (>0.91) when compared to traditional biomarkers of active inflammation, such as C reactive protein or fecal calprotectin.

Conclusion: Bowel ultrasound could be used as a non-invasive, easy to use diagnostic tool to predict the need to intensify therapy in patients with IBD.


inflammatory bowel diseases, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, bowel ultrasound, treatment escalation