Hydrophilic Polymer–associated Ischemic Enterocolitis

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Hydrophilic polymer coating of medical devices serves to lubricate the device and prevent device-related complications. The coating can be mechanically disrupted and result in downstream injury via presumed thromboembolism. This process has been reported in the brain, heart, lung, and skin, and has been replicated through animal studies and in vitro histologic processing of the polymer coating. We report the first description of hydrophilic polymer–associated ischemic enterocolitis in a series of 7 specimens (small bowel=2, colon=4, aortic thrombus=1) from 3 patients. We report a 4% incidence among all patients with an ischemic bowel resection between April 29, 2014 and August 8, 2016. All patients developed bowel ischemia within 1 day of aortic repair, and all bowel resection specimens showed polymers, mainly in the submucosal vessels in areas of extensive ischemia. The polymers appeared as basophilic, intravascular, serpiginous structures. In a patient who developed acute paralysis after the aortic repair, identical polymers were identified in the aortic thrombus and the ischemic bowel segment. We demonstrate that the polymers display an altered morphology over time and with various graft types, and that the degrading polymers are associated with a foreign body giant cell reaction. Special stains can aid in diagnosis, with the polymers turquoise on a colloidal iron stain, pink on von Kossa and mucicarmine stains, and pale blue on trichrome. Clinical follow-up was available up to 115 weeks: 1 patient died, and 2 are alive and well. In summary, we report a new diagnostic entity to be considered in the differential diagnosis of iatrogenic ischemic injuries in the gastrointestinal tract. Awareness of this entity is important to elucidate the cause of ischemia and to prevent misdiagnosis of the polymers and their associated giant cell reaction as a parasitic infection, granulomatous vasculitis, sarcoidosis, and idiopathic inflammatory bowel disease.

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