Gastric graft-versus-host disease: A blinded histologic study

Kay Washington, Rex C. Bentley, Annette Green, Janice Olson, William R. Treem, Hannah R Krigman

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Acute graft-versus-host disease (GvHD) of the upper gastrointestinal (GI) tract is common after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (BMT). However, diagnosis cannot be made on clinical presentation and endoscopic findings alone, because these are nonspecific, and histologic confirmation is often desirable. The diagnosis of gastric GvHD is often based on subtle findings with considerable potential for variability in interpretation. Evaluation of the reproducibility of diagnosis and recognition of histologic features of gastric GvHD was based on blinded review of 56 gastric biopsies (24 from patients with allogeneic BMT or unrelated umbilical cord blood transplantation and 32 control biopsies from patients who did not undergo BMT, of whom eight had active GI cytomegalovims [CMV] infection). Histologic criteria for GvHD were apoptosis and gland destruction, sparse inflammatory infiltrate, and granular eosinophilic debris in dilated glands. Seventeen patients (22 biopsies) were judged to have clinical GvHD on the basis of skin or liver involvement and GI symptoms without other known cause. Eighteen of these 22 gastric biopsies were classified as GvHD by at least two of the three pathologists on initial review. Blinded histologic diagnosis of GvHD had a positive predictive value of 69%, a sensitivity of 82%, and specificity of 76%. False-positive results occurred in CMV gastritis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, primary immunodeficiency, and after renal transplantation. Of individual features, granular debris in glands was a specific (94% specificity), but insensitive (41% sensitivity) marker for GvHD. Distinction between GvHD and CMV infection can be difficult, and GvHD can be confused with changes seen in HIV infection and other immunodeficiency states.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1037-1046
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Surgical Pathology
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1997


  • Apoptosis
  • Bone marrow transplantation
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Gastrointestinal tract
  • Graft-versus-host disease
  • Stomach


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