How Does Bowel Ultrasound Stack Up to MRE for Crohn’s Disease?

A Rispo et al. Inflamm Bowel Dis 2023; 29: 563-569. David Against Goliath: Direct Comparison of Handheld Bowel Sonography and Magnetic Resonance Enterography for Diagnosis of Crohn’s Disease

Lately, there has been a lot of ‘buzz’ about the potential use of point-of-care bowel sonography (aka intestinal ultrasound). This study (2019-2021) prospectively enrolled patients with a high likelihood of Crohn’s disease (CD) and compared handheld bowel sonography (HHBS), MRE (all patients, n=85, had ileocolonoscopy)

Key findings:

  • Sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive values, and negative predictive values for CD diagnosis were 87.50%, 91.89%, 93.33%, and 85% for HHBS; and 91.67%, 94.59%, 95.65%, and 89.74% for MRE, without significant differences in terms of diagnostic accuracy (89.41% for HHBS vs 92.94% for MRE, P = NS)
  • Magnetic resonance enterography was superior to HHBS in defining CD extension (r = 0.67; P < .01) with a better diagnostic performance than HHBS for detecting location (k = 0.81; P < .01), strictures (k = 0.75; P < .01), abscesses (k = 0.68; P < .01), and fistulas (k = 0.65; P < .01).

My take: In this study, MRE was clearly superior at defining CD complications. This study suggests that HHBS could be an effective screening tool but is not likely a definitive imaging study. In terms of bedside monitoring, it would be helpful to see how clinical monitoring with HBSS compares with a highly sensitive marker like a calprotectin. I also worry that HBSS could perform more poorly with more widespread application due to potential increase in operator error.