Histopathological Mimics of Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Schofield JB1, Haboubi N2. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2019 Oct 10. pii: izz232. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izz232. [Epub ahead of print]


Author information

Cellular Pathology, Maidstone Hospital, Maidstone, Kent, UK.

Spire Healthcare Trust, Manchester, UK.


This review article discusses the challenges of making a firm histopathological diagnosis of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) on biopsy and resection material and the importance of its distinction from a range of other inflammatory and infective conditions that may closely mimic IBD. In many cases, the diagnosis of ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease is straightforward, especially when patients have a typical presentation and characteristic histopathological features. Knowledge of the full clinical history is very important, particularly past and recent medical history, drug history, foreign travel, or known contact with individuals with specific infection. Discussion of all cases of suspected IBD within a multidisciplinary team meeting is required to ensure that clinical, radiological, and pathological features can be correlated. Mimics of IBD can be divided into 4 categories: 1) those due to specific infection, 2) those due to a specific localized inflammatory process, 3) those due to iatrogenic causes, and 4) other rarer causes. Accurate diagnosis of IBD and exclusion of these mimics are crucial for patient management. Once a diagnosis of IBD has been proffered by a pathologist, it is very difficult to "undiagnose" the condition when an alternative diagnosis or "mimic" has been subsequently identified. The histological diagnosis of each of these IBD mimics is discussed in detail, with guidance on how to avoid the pitfall of missing these sometimes very subtle and "difficult to diagnose" conditions.

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