Brown Bowel Syndrome: A Multi-institutional Case Series

May 26, 2020 | Histopathology

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Brown bowel syndrome (BBS) is a rare condition associated with vitamin E deficiency and defined by prominent lipofuscin deposition in the muscularis propria. Eight unique cases of BBS were identified: 5 men and 3 women (mean age=58.6 y). Pertinent comorbidities included bariatric surgery=2, malnourishment=2, Crohn=2, cystic fibrosis=1, alcohol and cocaine abuse=1, and prior small bowel resections=1. Presenting symptoms included abdominal pain=3, bleeding=1, nausea and vomiting=1, and nonresponsiveness=1. Imaging studies were often abnormal: thickened bowel wall=3 (1 with a mass), small bowel obstruction=2, and edematous and dilated bowel wall=2. Most specimens were surgical resections (n=7, autopsy=1): extended right colectomy=2, small bowel only=5 (terminal ileum=3, jejunum=2). Two specimens were grossly described as mahogany, and 1 case contained a perforation. Histologic sections of all cases showed finely granular, brown cytoplasmic pigment in smooth muscle cells on hematoxylin and eosin. This pigment was most conspicuous in the muscularis propria (small bowel>colon), and it was not identified in the mucosa. The pigment was reactive with Fontana-Masson, carbol lipofuscin, Periodic acid-Schiff, and Periodic acid-Schiff with diastase, and electron microscopy was compatible with lipofuscin. The mean clinical follow-up was 208 weeks: 1 patient died of complications of encephalitis, the others were alive and well. BBS is important to recognize because it is linked with malnutrition, specifically vitamin E deficien... Want to read more? Visit the AJSP​ Blog.

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