Clinical Parameters Correlate With Endoscopic Activity of Ulcerative Colitis: A Systematic Review

Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
11 Jun, 2019 ,

Emerging literature has suggested that in contrast to Crohn’s disease, there may be a better correlation between clinical symptoms and endoscopic assessment. Sophie Restellini conducted a study to determine whether clinical symptoms correlate with findings from endoscopy assessments of patients with Ulcerative Colitis. 

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Background & Aims

Optimal management of patients with ulcerative colitis (UC) requires assessment of disease activity—usually by endoscopy, which is invasive, costly, and not risk free. We performed a systematic review to determine whether clinical symptoms correlate with findings from endoscopy assessments of patients with UC.


We performed a systematic review of publication databases from January 1980 through July 2018 to identify clinical trials and observational studies reporting correlations among symptoms, disease activity index scores and/or patient reported outcomes (rectal bleeding and/or stool frequency), and endoscopic disease activity. Correlations were ascertained in patients with active vs inactive disease and by disease extent and treatment type. Risk of bias was assessed using the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies 2 tool. Because of significant heterogeneity, meta-analysis was not possible. Results were synthesized qualitatively and systematically.


Our final analysis included 23 studies (1 randomized trial, 22 observational studies) comprising 3320 patients with UC. The studies used a variety of measures to assess clinical activity, endoscopic activity, and measures of correlation (sensitivity, specificity, correlation coefficients, area under the receiver operator curve). Overall, studies were at moderate-high risk of bias. Composite clinical measures, including rectal bleeding and stool frequency, had moderate to strong correlations with endoscopic disease activity; the absence of rectal bleeding identified patients with inactive disease with higher levels of sensitivity than normalization of stool frequency. In general, symptoms correlated more strongly with endoscopic activity in patients with left-sided colitis than extensive colitis. The effect of different medications on the correlation between clinical and endoscopic activity has not been well studied.


In a systematic review, we found a moderate to strong correlation between clinical activity, particularly the combination of rectal bleeding and stool frequency, and endoscopic activity in patients with UC. Although these clinical assessments could help prioritize patients for endoscopic evaluation in resource-limited settings, challenges associated with treating patients based on symptoms alone preclude adaptation of current management algorithms.