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Bowel disease: identifying inflammation earlier to act quicker

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Researchers test laser procedure to improve precision of examinations for chronic inflammatory bowel disease

Around 400,000 people in Germany suffer from chronic inflammatory bowel disease. Conditions such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are characterised by recurring inflammation of the intestinal mucosa, which is associated with changes to blood vessels in the intestine. Researchers at the Department of Medicine 1 – Gastroenterology, Pneumology and Endocrinology (director: Prof. Dr. Markus F. Neurath) and the Department of Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (director: Prof. Dr. Dr. h. c. Wolfgang Rascher) at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen have recently published findings showing that using multispectral optoacoustic tomography (MSOT) can improve the examination and evaluation of disease activity.

The researchers used MSOT to examine the bowel for the first time. This involved using a laser that patients cannot feel in addition to the standard ultrasound scanner to examine the intestinal wall of patients with chronic inflammatory bowel disease. They discovered that using this highly sensitive method made it easier to identify disease activity and precursors such as changes in blood flow, even at low levels. The technique should allow doctors to identify inflammation at an earlier stage than was previously possible, enabling them to provide treatment sooner. Future research using MSOT will be extended to larger groups of patients in order to ensure that the results can be applied in as many areas as possible and new forms of treatment can be developed.

Chronic inflammatory bowel disease is very painful and affects most patients throughout their lifetime as relapses occur repeatedly. There is currently no permanent cure. Ultrasound is a common examination technique used on patients with the disease as it is non-invasive and delivers precise results. Doctors use it to conduct regular examinations of the structure and thickness of the intestinal walls and the blood flow through them. Changes in these can indicate the beginnings of a flare-up. The new MSOT procedure will improve medical imaging of the affected organs, which is important for determining treatment.

The results of the researcher’s study was published in June 2016 in the journal Gastroenterology (volume 151, issue 2, pp. 238–240).

Further information:

Prof. Dr. Maximilian Waldner
Phone: +49 9131 8535204

Dr. Ferdinand Knieling
Phone: +49 9131 8533118

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