Clinical nuclear medicine vol:26 issue:2 pages:99-104
PURPOSE: Ulcerative colitis (UC) is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease with frequent exacerbations, including the risk for toxic megacolon and severe complications. In very active disease, colonoscopy should not be performed to assess the severity and the extent of the disease. The aim of the current study was to determine whether Tc-99m HMPAO-labeled white blood cell (WBC) scintigraphy can be used as an alternative to colonoscopy to determine the extent and the severity of the disease in critically ill patients. METHODS: Twenty consecutive patients (7 women, 13 men; age 38.1 +/- 13.1 years) who had a severe attack of UC underwent scintigraphy on the day of admission. Leukocytes were labeled with 200 MBq (5.35 mCi) Tc-99m HMPAO. Planar anterior and posterior imaging of the abdomen was performed 45 and 120 minutes after WBC reinjection. The tracer uptake in the different colon segments was scored visually compared with bone marrow uptake. A symptom score was made and C-reactive protein was measured as a serologic marker of inflammation. Rectosigmoidoscopy with biopsy was performed within 24 hours of scintigraphy. Scintigraphic, endoscopic, and histologic results were compared for disease activity. RESULTS: The mean symptom score was 12.7 (+/-0.7) on a scale of 21, and mean the C-reactive protein level was 6.8 (+/-1.2) mg/l. No significant difference was found between the scintigraphic score of the rectum and the endoscopic or the histologic score. The best correlation was found with the latter (r = 0.66, P < 0.01). Based on the results of scintigraphy, disease involved the left side of the colon up to the splenic flexure in 10 patients. The other patients had pancolitis. CONCLUSIONS: Disease severity can be determined adequately by planar WBC scintigraphy in patients with severe attacks of UC. Because the presence and severity of disease correlates well with endoscopic and histologic findings, WBC scintigraphy can assess disease extent without the need for colonoscopy. This decreases the number and severity of complications that can occur in already critically ill patients.