Association between histopathological alterations and diarrhea severity in acute intestinal graft-versus-host disease

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Gastrointestinal (GI) acute graft-versus-host disease (aGVHD) remains one of the most important complications of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation (allo-HCT). The diagnosis of this complication is largely dependent on clinical symptoms, but GI biopsies are warranted in most cases, due to the multitude of potential causes that coexist in patients with a clinical suspicion of this complication. In addition, several lines of evidence support that the GI is not only a target organ in aGVHD, but also a key mediator of the pathogenesis of this condition. Controversy exists on whether histopathological findings are associated with clinical severity. Crypt loss is a relatively straightforward histological finding of GI aGVHD, whose presence has been associated with disease severity in a previous study.In order to independently validate this association, we retrospectively evaluated all histological changes from 25 patients with confirmed GI aGVHD who underwent allo-HCT in our center from 2008 to 2014. Clinical, laboratory, and histological data were obtained from the medical records and pathological reports. All GI biopsies were reviewed by 2 investigators blinded to clinical data, who classified GI aGVHD according to the presence of severe crypt loss.The proportion of patients with grades I–II and III–IV aGVHD patients in our population were 45.5% and 54.5%, respectively. The most common histological alterations were isolated apoptotic bodies, present in 80% of colon biopsies with aGVHD. Severe crypt loss, corresponding to grades III–IV aGVHD was associated with higher stool volumes (P = .02) and increased diarrhea duration (P = .02), but not with response to steroids or mortality.In this study, we independently validated that the presence of severe crypt loss, a reliable and simple parameter to grade the extension of GI aGVHD, is associated with disease severity in GI aGVHD.

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