Vasculitides of the gastrointestinal tract
Systemic vasculitis is often not considered as a possible diagnosis by clinicians because of its low prevalence compared with other more common diseases. Vasculitis can affect any end organ, and it is therefore often missed early on in disease progression. Gastrointestinal (GI) manifestations of vasculitis are considered rare and the presentation is often nonspecific. However, if there is significant involvement of the major vessels of the gastrointestinal system, life-threatening sequelae, including perforation and bowel ischemia, may occur. This makes early and immediate management crucial to improve long-term morbidity and mortality. Diagnosis of various GI vasculitides often relies on correlation of clinical manifestations with pathology and additional investigations. This paper reviews the various vasculitides that affect the GI tract, including systemic lupus erythematosus, mixed connective tissue disease, Henoch Schönlein purpura, polyarteritis nodosa, Churg-Strauss syndrome, Wegener's granulomatosis, microscopic polyangiitis, enterocolic lymphocytic phlebitis, and Behcet's disease. Segmental arterial mediolysis, mistakenly believed to be a vasculitis, is also discussed.