Cholesterol Crystal Embolization Demonstrated on GI Biopsy

Paraf, François; Jacquot, Christian; Bloch, Francis; De Montpréville, Vincent; Bruneval, Patrick
December 2001
American Journal of Gastroenterology;Dec2001, Vol. 96 Issue 12, p3301
Academic Journal
OBJECTIVES: Cholesterol crystal embolism is a severe complication of atherosclerosis responsible for nonspecific cutaneous, renal, and, less often, digestive manifestations that may mimic other systemic diseases. METHODS: We reviewed retrospectively 10 patients with histologically proven cholesterol crystal emboli diagnosed by endoscopic GI biopsy. RESULTS: All patients had prior clinical manifestations of severe atherosclerosis and predisposing factors for cholesterol migration. They all had cutaneous manifestations of cholesterol crystal embolism, acute renal failure, and biological inflammatory syndrome. Digestive symptoms were found in the 10 patients: abdominal pain in eight, diarrhea in four, and GI bleeding in three. GI endoscopy ruled out specific digestive diseases, showing only a congestive or erosive mucosa. Histological diagnosis of cholesterol crystal emboli was based on gastric biopsy in nine patients, duodenal biopsy in four, colonic biopsy in three, and rectal biopsy in one, with six having positive biopsies on multiple sites. Outcome after the diagnosis of cholesterol crystal embolism was poor, with all patients requiring permanent hemodlalysis. Death by atherosclerosis complications occurred in five patients. CONCLUSIONS: This cohort suggests that upper GI endoscopy may be helpful in demonstrating the presence of cholesterol crystal embolism, and that diagnosis of cholesterol crystal emboli on digestive tract biopsy indicates advanced systemic atherosclerosis disease of poor prognosis.


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