In a prospective blind evaluation of multiple colonic mucosal biopsy specimens, 45 clinically well defined patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disease (21 Crohn's disease and 24 ulcerative colitis) and 16 control subjects (seven normal subjects and nine patients with diverticular disease) were studied to identify reproducible histopathological features which could distinguish chronic inflammatory bowel disease (CIBD) from non-CIBD and Crohn's disease from ulcerative colitis. Using kappa statistics 16 of 41 histological features were sufficiently reproducible for further stepwise discriminant analysis to differentiate between CIBD and non-CIBD, and between Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis. Using the combination of three features (an increase of lymphocytes and plasma cells in the lamina propria, the presence of branching of crypts, and neutrophils in the crypt epithelium) we were able to distinguish CIBD from non-CIBD in 89% of the cases with high probability (p greater than 0.85). To separate Crohn's disease from ulcerative colitis three features (an excess of histiocytes in combination with a villous or irregular aspect of the mucosal surface and granulomas) had a high predictive value. Using these features 70% of Crohn's disease patients and 75% of ulcerative colitis patients were correctly classified with a high probability (p greater than 0.85). These findings indicate that the pathologist is dependent on the presence of only a few histological features for a reliable classification of Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.
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