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Insights into Imaging

, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 195–208

First Online: 10 January 2014Received: 05 October 2013Revised: 16 December 2013Accepted: 18 December 2013


ObjectiveIn this article we present a simplified algorithm-based approach to the thickening of the small and large bowel wall detected on routine computed tomography CT of the abdomen.

BackgroundThickening of the small or large bowel wall may be caused by neoplastic, inflammatory, infectious, or ischaemic conditions. First, distinction should be made between focal and segmental or diffuse wall thickening. In cases of focal thickening further analysis of the wall symmetry and perienteric anomalies allows distinguishing between neoplasms and inflammatory conditions. In cases of segmental or diffuse thickening, the pattern of attenuation in light of clinical findings helps narrowing the differential diagnosis.

ConclusionFocal bowel wall thickening may be caused by tumours or inflammatory conditions. Bowel tumours may appear as either regular and symmetric or irregular or asymmetric thickening. When fat stranding is disproportionately more severe than the degree of wall thickening, inflammatory conditions are more likely. With the exception of lymphoma, segmental or diffuse wall thickening is usually caused by benign conditions, such as ischaemic, infectious and inflammatory diseases.

Key points• Thickening of the bowel wall may be focal <5 cm and segmental or diffuse 6-40 cm or >40 cm in extension.

• Focal, irregular and asymmetrical thickening of the bowel wall suggests a malignancy.

• Perienteric fat stranding disproportionally more severe than the degree of wall thickening suggests an inflammatory condition.

• Regular, symmetric and homogeneous wall thickening is more frequently due to benign conditions, but can also be caused by neoplasms such as well-differentiated adenocarcinoma and lymphoma.

• Segmental or diffuse bowel wall thickening is usually caused by ischaemic, inflammatory or infectious conditions and the attenuation pattern is helpful in narrowing the differential diagnosis.

KeywordsComputed tomography Inflammatory bowel disease Small bowel intestinal neoplasms  Download fulltext PDF

Autor: Teresa Fernandes - Maria I. Oliveira - Ricardo Castro - Bruno Araújo - Bárbara Viamonte - Rui Cunha


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