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GI for ISCEs. Lorna Roden. What we’re covering…. History and examination 3 cases – differentials, investigations and management Common ‘lists’ of differentials.

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gi for isces

GI for ISCEs

Lorna Roden

what we re covering
What we’re covering…
  • History and examination
  • 3 cases – differentials, investigations and management
  • Common ‘lists’ of differentials

Mrs Gladys Brown is a 69-year-old retired lawyer. She has been referred to your outpatient clinic complaining of tiredness and loss of energy. She initially thought this was due to looking after her grandchildren twice a week, but since stopping this the symptoms have persisted. She describes loose bowel motions for the last few months and has lost 12.5kg in weight

what questions should you ask
What questions should you ask?
  • Fatigue/ tiredness – duration of symptoms, relationship to work, preceding infection, intense exertion, stressful life events
  • Loose stool – colour, consistency, odour
  • Presence of blood mixed in with or separate to stool
  • Tenesmus (feeling of incomplete evacuation of stool)
  • Weight loss – intentional or unintentional
  • Abdo pain/discomfort – SOCRATES
  • Bloating, distension and excessive passing of flatus – malabsorption
  • Heartburn and reflux – upper GI
  • Systemic features – recurrent mouth ulcers, arthritis, rash
  • Medications – recent changes
  • Recent travel abroad – Giardia causes chronic diarrhoea
  • Smoking – negative impact in Crohn’s disease but affords protection in UC
  • Alcohol – pancreatic insufficiency as a result of misuse
  • Diet - intolerance
  • HIV-risk – health-compromising behaviours
  • Family history – inflammatory bowel or colorectal cancer
describe these dermatological signs
Describe these dermatological signs
  • Dermaititsherpetiformus– intensely itchy on the elbows/buttocks and associated with coeliac disease
  • Errythemanodosum– tender, palpable, erythematous nodules on the shins associated with inflammatory bowel disease

Mrs Brown has been tired and lethargic for the last month

She describes a 6 month history of watery loose stools, up to 3 times per day, associated with bloating and flatulence. There is no blood. She has had abdominal cramps intermittently for the last few years on most days.

She has lost 12.5 kg in weight over 6 months unintentionally. She suffers from mouth ulcers every winter but not regularly. There have been no new rashes or additional symptoms.

She takes aspirin, lisinopril and levothyroxine and beclometasone and salbutamol inhalers and is compliant with these.

She is retired, drinks 2 units of alcohol per month and has never smoked.

There is no recent travel history and no relevant family history.


Iron deficiency

Malabsorption and malnutrition



Angular stomatitis

Corneal Arcus


signs of chronic liver disease
Signs of chronic liver disease
  • Hepatomegaly
  • Jaundice
  • Ascites
  • Circulatory changes – spider telangiectasia, palmar errythema
  • Endocrine – loss of libido, hair loss, gyanecomastia, testicular atrophy, impotence, irregular menses, ammenorrhoea
  • Haemorrhagic tendency – bruises, purpura, epistaxis
  • Portal hypertension – splenomegaly, colateral vessels, variceal bleeding, fetor hepaticus
  • Hepatic encepahlopathy
  • Pigmentation, leukonychia
causes of hepato splenomegaly
Causes of hepato-splenomegaly


Parenchymal liver disease

Alcoholic liver disease

Autoimmune hepatitis

Viral hepatitis

Primary biliary cirrhosis


Primary HCC

Secondary metastatic cancer

Right heart failure

Haematological disorders







Budd-chiari syndrome



Leukaemia (CML)



Haemolytic anaemia

Portal hypertension


Glandular fever




Subacute bacterial endocarditis


RA (Felty’s Syndrome)






e xamination

Examination reveals angular stomatitis and a few mouth ulcers. The abdominal examination was unremarkable with no palpable organomegaly or mass. The DRE was normal with good anal tone and no masses.

what is the differential diagnosis
What is the differential diagnosis?
  • Coeliac disease
  • Chronic pancreatitis and pancreatic insufficiency
  • Thyrotoxicosis
  • Colorectal cancer
  • IBD
  • Microscopic colitis
coeliac disease
Coeliac disease
  • Immune-mediated disorder resulting in small intestinal villous atrophywhich resolves on gluten withdrawal from the diet
  • Main toxic component of gluten is α-gliadin
    • Causes a T-cell mediated inflammatory response
    • Anti-tissue tranglutaminase (anti-TTG) antibody, anti-gliadin antibody
  • Peaks in 3rd decade

Clinical features

  • Children: abdominal pain, anaemia, short stature, delayed puberty
  • Adults: abdominal bloating, lethargy, weakness, diarrhoea or constipation, iron-deficiency anaemia, malabsorption, oral ulcers
  • Associations
    • Dermatitis herpetiformus
    • Small bowel lymphoma

AIMS: Confirm diagnosis, look for consequences, supportive factors

  • Confirm diagnosis
    • Duodenal biopsy - GOLD STANDARD – villous atrophy and crypt hyperplasia and intraepithelial lymphocytosis
    • IGA antibodies to tissue transglutaminase (TTG), endomysial and gliadin antigen – used to MONITOR treatment response
  • Consequences
    • FBC
    • Haematinics (low folate, B12, iron status)
    • Clotting screen (Vit K)
    • Bone investigation (low Ca2+, Vit D, albumin; osteopenia on DEXA scan)
    • BMI
  • Supportive factors
    • Liver enzymes (sometimes raised transamminases)
    • Intestinal permeability (increased)
    • Faecal fat (increased)
  • Life-long gluten-free diet
  • Correct deficiencies
  • Aggressive management of any bone disease
  • If patient remains refractory:
    • Check compliance with diet
    • Consider additional diagnosis (giardiasis, lactase deficiency)
    • Consider complications (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, small intestine T-cell lymphoma)
case 3

Emma Ritchie is a 24 year old secretary. She has suffered with increased frequency of bowel opening, up to 5 times a day, abdominal pain and feeling generally unwell for the last 6 months.

bowel habit
Bowel habit?
  • How has it changed?
  • What is ‘normal’ for you?
  • Nature of the stool?
  • Unusual contents of stool (watery, blood-stained, mucous?
  • Colour change?
  • Odour change?
  • Urgency?

Pale, oily, malodorous and difficult to flush

Watery and liquid; high frequency

Black, tarry and malodorous

Upper GI bleeding

Bacterial overgrowth or microscopic colitis

Malabsorption of fat

  • Crohn’s disease
  • Ulcerative colitis
  • Chronic parasitic infection i.e. giardiasis
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Coeliac disease
  • Chronic pancreatitis

Travel history

Weight loss, anaemia and sustained ill health can rule this out

Alcohol history and family history

differentials for chronic diarrhoea and malabsorption
Differentials for chronic diarrhoea and malabsorption?
  • Coeliac disease
  • Tropical sprue
  • Parasitic infections
  • Immunodeficiency syndromes
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Whipple’s disease
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Microscopic colitis
extra intestinal features of inflammatory bowel disease
Extra-intestinal features of inflammatory bowel disease
  • Most common: arthritis (10-35%)
  • Occur at roughly the same rates in Crohn’s and UC
  • These features are either related to disease activity or not

What extra-intestinal features can you think of?

Arthritis is more common in Crohn’s than in UC

extra intestinal features related to disease activity
Extra-intestinal features related to disease activity
  • Pauci-articular arthritis
    • <5 joints
    • Asymmetric
    • Acute and self-limitting (weeks rather than months)
  • Errythemanodosum
    • Tender, red or violet subcutaneous nodules
  • Apthousulcers
    • Painful, clearly defined round or ovoid, shallow ulcers of the smooth surfaces of the mouth and underside of the tongue
  • Episcleritis
    • Red eye with injected sclera and conjunctiva, ± pain
  • Metabolic bone disease
    • Osteo–penia/-porosis/-malacia
    • Occurs in 30%
  • Thromboembolism and UC
    • Hospitalisation, malnutrition and immobilisation contribute
    • Platelets can also be high (acute phase reaction)
extra intestinal features not related to disease activity
Extra-intestinal features not related to disease activity
  • Axial arthritis
    • Sacroiliac and spine
    • Pain in buttocks and back
  • Polyarticulararthritis
    • Symmetrical
    • Persistent
    • Damaging to affected joints
  • Pyodermagangrenosum
    • Errythematouspapules develop into deep ulcers containing sterile pus
    • Occurs on the shins most commonly
    • Sometimes where there has been previous trauma
  • Uveitis (irits)
    • Bilateral, insidious onset
    • Painful red eye, injected conjunctiva, blurred vision, photophobia, headaches
    • REFER URGENTLYany patients with occular pain, redness and visual disturbance
  • Hepatobiliaryconditions
    • Primary sclerosingcholangitis (PSC), cholangitis, pericholangitis, steatosis, chronic hepatitis, cirrhosis, gallstones
    • May be a complication or an adverse effect of drugs
    • Present as incidental finding
    • PBC is more common in UC
  • Rare: bronchiectasis, bronchitis, hyperhomocysteinaemia, pancreatitis, renal stones

Result from disease itself or the treatments given…


Risk factors?

Duration, extent of disease, severity of inflammation, family history of CRC, concomittant PSC

Active small bowel disease/extensive small bowel resection


Iron, folate, B12, fat-soluble vitamins (ADEK)


Osteoporosis, anaemia


  • Colorectal cancer

Crohn’s disease

  • Perforation
  • Abscess
  • Fistulae
  • Obstruction
  • Malabsorption
  • Low bile salt reabsorption
  • Malnutrition
  • Bacterial overgrowth

Predilection of Crohn’s for the ileum – bile salts spill into the colon and cause bile-salt induced diarrhoea

Further disease/resection?

Fat maldigestion and steatorrhoea

This leads to predilection for renal calculi – calcium readily binds unabsorbed fatty acids, allowing oxalate to be taken up by the bowel in greater quantity

From extensive resection

examination of the patient with ibd
Examination of the patient with IBD

Now that you know the features, extra-colonic features and complications of the disease what would you examine in the ISCE station if you suspected IBD?

  • Initial presentation – DIAGNOSIS is with history + histology + imaging
    • Bloods
      • FBC – anaemia, raised platelets (surrogate sign of inflammation)
      • WCC – infection
      • Electrolytes – diarrhoea
      • Liver chemistry – complications i.e. PSC (liver switches out of making albumin and makes inflammatory mediators like CRP)
      • CRP– elevated in inflammatory conditions
      • Haematinics – iron, folate, B12
      • Calcium, magnesium and zinc – malabsorption, important for wound healing
      • Autoantibodies – gliadin peptides to rule out coeliac disease
    • Imaging
      • Endoscopy (Crohn’s) – mucosal biopsy and balloon dilation
      • Colonoscopy (UC) – to determine extent of disease
      • CT and barium studies
      • US – useful for detecting thickened bowel, abscess and fistulae
    • Special
      • Examination of the stool -macroscopic , microscopic and culture (to exclude infective diarrhoea)
  • Chronic disease investigation
    • Assess disease activity – simple markers of inflammatory activity (CRP).
      • ‘Activity Indices’ – Crohn’s Disease Activity Index
    • Complications – AXR, bloods, stool cultures
    • Severe colitis – recognize early
  • GOALS:
    • Relief of clinical symptoms
  • Medical therapy is a 3-pronged approach…
    • Remission from symptoms of active disease
    • Maintaining remission
    • Preventing complications
  • Also consider – RISK vs BENEFIT of toxic treatments

For both UC and Crohn’s suggest an MDT approach




Psychological support

management crohn s
Management – Crohn’s

Skin/soft tissue

Cushingoid appearance

Abdominal striae





Sleep disturbance/activation

Mood disturbance







Asceptic necrosis of bone



Diabetes mellitus

Adrenal cortex suppression




False-negative skin test





Narrow-angle glaucoma


Growth retardation

  • Pharmacological therapies
    • 5-Aminosalicylates (5-ASA) – do not alter disease course, favourable ‘safety profile’, used more commonly for UC
    • Antibiotics – Ciprofloxacin and metronidazole, study data varies
    • Corticosteroids – achieve remission but don’t sustain it, PO Prednisolone for most, IV methylprednisolone for those with poor absorptive states, side-effect profile if used long term is poor, can cause non-healing fistulae
    • Thiopurines (azathioprine and 6-mercaptopurine) – purine analogues, immunosuppressive agents, achieve and maintain remission
    • Methotrexate – can achieve remission and maintain it, not for women of childbearing age
    • Anti-TNF agents (infliximab, adalimumab) – anti-TNF (pro-inflammatory cytokine important in Crohns)
  • Surgical management – 75% of patients will have surgery within 20 years of diagnosis
    • Needed to address: stricturing, penetrating or fistulating disease
    • Recurrence at anastomotic sites is common – surgery not recommended as a primary treatment


Infection – especially TB (screen for this prior to administration), Hep B

↑ risk of lymphoma

management uc
Management - UC
  • Pharmacological therapies
    • 5-ASA – mainstay of treatment, sulfazalazine is main drug in this class, SE’s: Nausea, vomitting, dyspepsia, headache, malaise, achieve and maintains remission, ask about adherence as 3-4 doses/day are required
    • Corticosteroids – achieve remission but do not maintain it, heavy SE profile
    • Thiopurines – not as good in UC as in Crohn’s
    • Infliximab
    • Cyclosporine – calcineurin inhibitor, last-line in hospitalised patients, induces short-term response
  • Surgical management
    • Offers a THERAPEUTIC option
    • Colectomy with ileo-anal pouch formation – removes diseased tissue and the need for further medical therapy
    • Indications: severe disease, disease refractory to medical therapy, complications of a severe attack (perforation, acute colonic dilation), colitis associated dysplasia/malignancy, impaired quality of life (unacceptable symptoms despite maximal therapy)
  • Surveillance of complications
    • Colorectal carcinoma → colonoscopies with biopsies every 2 years initially (every year if +PBC/long-standing disease)


IV steroids

Ciclosporin for disease not responding to steroids

  • “random 4-quadrant biopsies every 10cm throughout the colon”
case 4

Betty Smith is a 45 year-old teacher who presents to her GP with itching for a few years that has gradually got worse. Her neighbour has also noticed a yellow tinge to her eyes. She has a past medical history of hypothyroidism.

On examination the sclera are yellow and her chest and abdomen are mildly excoriated.

  • Primary Biliary Cirrhosis
  • Autoimmune hepatitis
  • Iron deficiency
  • Hypothyroidism


  • Chronic
  • Cholestatic liver disease characterised by fibrosing inflammatory destruction of both intra- and extra-hepatic bile ducts
  • Men (70%), 40 years old
  • Thought to be an immune-mediated
    • SerumpANCAin 60%
  • Clinical features
    • Incidental finding - ↑ALP
    • Fluctuating pruritis
    • Jaundice
    • Cholangitis
  • Associations – with ulcerative colitis in 75% of cases
  • Chronic
  • Progressive destruction of small bile ducts eventually leading to cirrhosis
  • Women (90%), 40-50 years old
  • Thought to be an immunological mechanism involved
    • Serum anti-mitochrondrial antibodies (AMA) present
    • E. Coli
  • Clinical features
    • Incidental finding - ↑ALP, AMA autoantibodies
    • Pruritis precedes jaundice by years
    • Fatigue
    • Hepatomegaly
  • Associations – autoimmune disorders occur with more frequency
    • Sjogrens
    • Scleroderma
    • Thyroid disease
    • Renal tubular acidosis, membranous glomerulonephritis, coeliac disease, interstitial pneumonitis
  • Bloods
    • Mitochondrial antibodies – measured by ELISA
    • Liver profile – ALP raised, no others
    • Serum cholesterol – raised
  • Imaging
    • US – diffuse alteration in liver architecture
    • MRCP
    • Biopsy – portal tract infiltrate, granulomas, loss of small bile ducts
  • Pharmacological
    • Ursodeoxycholic acid – improves bilirubin and aminotransferase levels, does not improve prognosis
    • Supplementation of fat-soluble vitamins (ADEK)
    • Cholestyramine – for pruritis
  • Complications – cirrhosis
  • PSC – the only proven treatment is liver transplantation