Original article Clinical endoscopy| Volume 77, ISSUE 4, P624-630, April 2013

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Breaks in the wall: increased gaps in the intestinal epithelium of irritable bowel syndrome patients identified by confocal laser endomicroscopy (with videos)

Published:January 28, 2013DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gie.2012.11.006


      Altered intestinal permeability and mucosal inflammation have been reported in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients. Increased cell extrusion in the epithelium as measured by epithelial gaps may be associated with barrier dysfunction and may lead to mucosal inflammation. Confocal laser endomicroscopy can be used to identify and quantitate epithelial gaps in the small intestine.


      To determine the epithelial gap density in IBS and healthy control patients.


      Prospective, controlled cohort study.


      A tertiary referral center.


      In IBS and control patients undergoing routine colonoscopy, probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy was used to image the terminal ileum.

      Main Outcome Measurements

      The primary outcome was the density of epithelial gaps (gaps/cells counted) in adequately imaged villi using pCLE. Images were reviewed by 2 blinded reviewers.


      We recruited 18 healthy controls and 16 IBS patients. The median epithelial gap densities for control and IBS patients were 6 and 32 gaps per 1000 cells, respectively (P < .001). There was a trend toward higher gap density in female (P = .07) and younger (ρ = −0.43, P = .07) patients. Using 3% (90% of the control population) as the cutoff for abnormal gap density, we found the diagnostic accuracy for IBS to be as follows: 62% sensitivity, 89% specificity, 83% positive predictive value, and 73% negative predictive value.


      A single-center study, small number of patients.


      IBS patients have significantly more epithelial gaps in their small intestine compared with healthy controls, which suggests that increased epithelial cell extrusion may be a cause of altered intestinal permeability observed in IBS.


      CLE (confocal laser endomicroscopy), IBD (inflammatory bowel disease), IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), pCLE (probe-based confocal laser endomicroscopy)
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